On April 28, the world lost both a designer and an artist mere hours apart from one another.
Gerson Leiber was a painter and helped created a museum with his wife, Judith, that opened in 2008.
The museum houses the work of both Gerson, a modernist painter and keen businessman, and Judith, whose artisan handbags were sought after by celebrities and first ladies dating back to Mamie Eisenhower.
The couple’s biographer and spokesman Jeffrey Sussman said to The New York Times that Gerson told his wife the night before they both passed away, “Sweetie, it’s time both of us to go.”
It’s hard to imagine what that moment must have been like after 72 years of marriage.
Gerson had congestive heart failure. He would pass away in their home at the age of 96. And just hours later, Judith had a heart attack.
The couple met during World War II. Gerson was serving as an Army Signal Corps sergeant and was stationed in Budapest
Judith, who was Jewish, worked in service sewing army uniforms to escape Nazi persecution. Her family was able to eventually flee to a Swiss safe house.
She met her husband on the streets of Budapest where she was selling her handbags to U.S. soldiers after the war. She told Gerson her family was looking to rent a room to a soldier.
“She knew nothing about how the U.S. military made house decisions, ” Gerson said in 2017 during an interview with the NYT. “She did, however, speak excellent English. I couldn’t find her a tenant, but I did fall in love.”
The couple eventually married in 1946 and moved to New York. Judith’s handbag business blossomed into a sought-after brand.
The couple kept the company until 1993, when they sold it to Time Products.
The museum, located in Springs, New York, catalogs the couple’s successful careers in both art and fashion. They also had a special exhibit at the Long Island Museum called “Brilliant Partners” in 2017.
“When you ask Gus [Gerson] about himself, he answers by talking about Judith,” said Joshua Ruff, the museum director. “One of the things you’ll see in this exhibit is that this is a love story.”
Both Gerson and Judith Leiber were buried together on April 30, 2018. Our thoughts are with their family during this difficult time.
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