TRIBUTES have been paid to popular leather craftsman and trader Larry Leighton, who died earlier this month from a rare form of Parkinson’s disease.

Larry, 71, ran the Golden Fleece Trading Company in Thrupp, together with wife Juliette Elgrably. He also for many years had a leatherwork studio at Ruskin Mill.

He died at home on October 3 surrounded by Juliette and friends .

Larry was well known for his warm and gregarious personality. He loved meeting people and had a wide circle of friends.

“He had a real interest in other people, a wish to truly understand them, to find the brother in the other,” said his wife Juliette.

Larry was born in Birmingham in 1948 to German Jewish parents who had fled Nazi Germany.

His father, whose suffering at the hands of the Nazis affected his health until his death, died when Larry was 11 years old. Larry had a happy childhood, but his father’s death was a traumatic event for him.

After that he helped his mother run the family’s jewellery business.

Larry visited Israel after his schooling ended. At the time he strongly identified with his Jewishness, but when he experienced the reality of what Zionism meant for the Palestinians, his ideals were shattered and he turned away from Judaisim.

He went on to study English at the University of East Anglia.

At the age 23, he left England for Africa, on his way to India, hitch hiking all the way.

First he went to Morocco where, in Fez, he became fascinated by the local leather work.

Then he made his way right down the continent to South Africa, where he spent a year studying African leatherwork methods.

He settled in Africa and whilst there he also encountered anthroposophy, the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, which became a big part of his life.

He returned to England, aged 31, with a young family. They settled in Stroud and Larry worked in the bakery and gardens at Paradise House.

Larry then took on a workshop at Ruskin Mill where he produced leatherwork and taught his skills to the centre’s students. He was Ruskin Mill’s first craft master and was made a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen.

He also studied ‘biography work’ at the Centre for Social Development in Sussex, an active practice for developing self-knowledge founded on the work of Rudolf Steiner.

In 1998, he met Juliette in Stroud and in 1999 the couple started The Golden Fleece Trading Company.

The couple made regular trips to Morocco, Juliette’s country of birth, buying craft items with a Fair Trade Ethos direct from the craftspeople which they imported to sell at their shop in Thrupp.

Larry and Juliette married in May 2002 and they went on to organise group trips to Morocco and offered biography courses at Hawkwood College, Juliette contributing eurythmy to the courses.

Spirituality was very important to Larry and he was instrumental in establishing the ‘Spirit of Peace’ meetings at the Christian Community in Cainscross Road.

In 2014, Larry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In July 2018 , this was more accurately diagnosed as PSP, progressive supranuclear palsy.

In the past year he managed one more trip to Morocco, together with Juliette, Phil and two other close friends, to see all the craftspeople with whom he had built up a relationship and the many close friends he had made there.

And he finally made it to India too, a country he had always wanted to visit, with a trip to the Vaidyar’s Ayuverda Hospital in Puttur for specialist PSP treatment, for six weeks of treatment during June and July this year.

As his condition deteriorated, a kind and caring group of people came forward to support Larry and Juliette, allowing Larry to be at home until the end.

“Larry accepted his illness with courage and dignity and kept his love, the sparkle in his eyes and his humour right to the end,” said Juliette.

Larry’s daughter said: “My dad Larry touched many hearts and will be much missed and never forgotten by me and my friends.”

Larry’s funeral was held on October 10 at the Christian Community in Stroud.