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Fort Worth: Obie Paul Leonard Jr., of Leonard’s Dept., dies

Obie Paul Leonard Jr. passed away on May 21.  He was 95 years old.

Obie Paul Leonard Jr. passed away on May 21. He was 95 years old.

Obie Paul Leonard III

Obie Paul Leonard Jr. – the former president of Leonard’s department store in Fort Worth – will be remembered for his love of family and community, his loved ones say. Leonard died on May 21 at the age of 95.

“Whatever he undertook, he did it with passion and total commitment,” said his son, Obie Paul Leonard III.

Leonard Jr. was born in Fort Worth on May 16, 1926 and attended Paschal High School, TCU and SMU. He served in the Navy during World War II. He had five children, 13 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. His wife Nancy Leonard lives in Fort Worth.

Leonard Jr.’s family operated Leonard’s Department Store from 1918 to 1967 in downtown Fort Worth. Anchorage of the city center, it has become a shopping center where you could buy anything from a piano to a packet of pumpkin seeds, and that was where everyone went on Saturdays. The store spanned seven blocks between Houston, Throckmorton, West Weatherford and West First streets.

Leonard III said his father grew up in the store, worked there and eventually took over the family business.

“This is who we were, we were Leonard,” his son said. “It was a big part of our heritage.”

Leonard Jr. was known as a man of integrity and someone who had a great love for his community, his son said. He was a member of the Exchange Club of Fort Worth and the Bible Study Fellowship and was active in the Boy Scouts, most notably as a scoutmaster. He attended Christ Chapel Bible Church.

“He loved life and he was a fanatic of everything he did, and it was contagious,” said Leonard III.

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Obie Paul Leonard Jr. in his office in downtown Fort Worth in 2005. Behind Leonard are his two daughters, Louise Keffler, left, and Laura Hallum. RON T. ENNIS STAR-TELEGRAM / RON T. ENNIS

Thinking of Leonard Jr., Lauren Leonard, his granddaughter, said that she would miss her smile which made her feel like the most important person in the world. She remembers how he was always interested in his life and his hobbies.

“It really touched your heart,” she says.

Lauren Leonard will cherish the times she went hunting and fishing with her grandfather. One of her most valuable possessions is a fly fishing rod her grandfather gave her. He was an advocate for the outdoors, she said.

Her grandfather’s devotion to Christianity and his wife over 70 will always be an inspiration to her, she said. She will remember him as a chic man who loved golf and bow ties.

Marty Leonard, Leonard Jr.’s cousin and a member of the Tarrant County Regional Water District board of directors, said her cousin has been the family’s patriarch in recent years. While they were cousins, she considered him an older brother.

“Later on we probably spent more time together and had more fun – we enjoyed each other more,” she said.

Marty Leonard described his cousin as a devout Christian and someone who never let his family name stop him from being his own man. She remembers that he always had a pocket full of pecans he grew. Leonard Jr.’s father, Obadiah Paul Leonard, started growing pecans, and Leonard Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps.

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Obie Paul Leonard Jr. watches one of his pecans in his orchard in Goldthwaite, Texas. Big Valley Farm was planted by the Leonard family in the 1940s. (Nk) 2004 JILL JOHNSON KRT

Leonard III said he wanted people to remember his father as an exceptional citizen, a man who loved life and his family.

“He had a full life and left peacefully,” he said.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on June 2 at Christ Chapel Bible Church, 3701 Birchman Ave. The family asks people to wear brightly colored clothes because Leonard Jr. said his funeral should be a celebration of his presence with the Lord.

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