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This is to commemorate the life of Leon Schmidt, who passed away today, December 27, 2013, at the age of 97 years. He was born February 16, 1916, in Yorktown, Texas, the third child and only son of Jacob and Bertha Schmidt. Leon moved with his family to Austin in 1928 so that he and his sisters could attend Austin High School, as there were not adequate schools in Yorktown. Leon graduated from Austin High in 1932. He was class valedictorian, and was a charter member, at Austin High, of the National Honor Society. He subsequently enrolled at the University of Texas, where he could attend classes and work in the family business. He graduated from UT in 1936. After that, he entered the Business School at Harvard University, attaining his MBA in 1938. He enlisted in the Army at the start of WWII, entering as a Second Lieutenant, serving in the Quartermaster Corps in the Philippines, Australia, and New Guinea.

At the conclusion of the war, Leon returned to Austin to work with his father in the family business. His first major project was to engineer the conversion of that business, then called the Jacob Schmidt Store, from a general dry goods store on East Sixth Street across the street from the Driskill Hotel, to a better ladies' and children's specialty fashion business. He located this store on the more upscale Congress Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets, next to Scarbrough's, and named it Yaring's, after his mother's maiden name, Yahr. He was a visionary business leader ever since, continuing to adjust to changing conditions and tastes, not only in retail, but in real estate and finance, as well.

Leon was also generous with his time and resources, helping to make Austin the great community it is today. Some of his pet projects included the Austin Symphony, Mexic Arte Museum, the Dell Jewish Community Center, and the Dell Children's Hospital, where the Meditation Garden is named in his honor.

Leon married Barbara Cowen in 1953, and is survived by his loving wife and their four children and eight grandchildren. He is also survived by his youngest sister, Edythe Kruger, of Austin. He was preceded in death by his sisters, Helen Bock and Sylvia Schwartz, of Dallas, and Lena Simon, of Austin.

A memorial service will be held at Temple Beth Israel on this Sunday, December 29, 2013, at noon.

Published in Austin American-Statesman from Dec. 29 to Dec. 30, 2013
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