A great love story came to a fitting end last week. After 72 years of marriage, famed handbag designer Judith Leiber, 97, and her husband, artist Gerson Leiber, 96, passed away.
The couple died only hours apart at their Springs, New York, home on Saturday.
People reported that both of them died of heart attacks. They were buried together on Monday.
According to Jeffrey Sussman, the couple’s biographer and spokesman, Gerson told Judith on Friday night, “Sweetie, it’s time for both of us to go.”
The couple's grand love story started during World War II. Gerson met Judith when was stationed in Budapest in Judith’s hometown.
Judith's family were Jewish. The family first survived by sewing army uniforms and later by living in a safe house for Swiss citizens.
After the war, Judith began her remarkable career as a handbag designer. She studied at an artisan guild and worked with top handbag manufacturers. She started out by selling her own bags to U.S. soldiers.
That's when she met Leiber. She told him that her family had a room to rent to a soldier.
“She knew nothing about how the U.S. military made housing decisions,” Gerson told the NYT in 2017. “She did, however, speak excellent English. I couldn’t find her a tenant, but I did fall in love.”
The couple married in 1946, and they moved to New York where Judith began selling her handbags. In 1963, she and her husband decided to start their own business, she as the creative, he as the businessman.
She was known for her crystal-covered minaudières that were purchased by celebs like Beyoncé, Madonna, and Blake Lively, as well as First Ladies including Mamie Eisenhower, Barbra Bush, Hillary Clinton, and many others. They sold the company in 1993 for $16 million.
Mr. Leiber was a well-respected artist in his own right. His abstract landscapes, prints, and sculptures have been featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 2017, they had an exhibit at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York, that showcased their work. It was called, “Brilliant Partners: Judith Leiber’s Handbags & the Art of Gerson Leiber.”
The museum’s director of collections and interpretation, Joshua Ruff, revealed a heartwarming detail about the couple:
“When you ask Gus about himself, he answers by talking about Judith. One of the things you’ll see in this exhibit is that this is a love story.”
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