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Friend of saint and dinosaur

By NCR Staff

Richard C. Leach, a Catholic businessman with diverse interests -- most notably sponsor of Barney the purple dinosaur -- was inspired to produce a musical based on the life of St. Francis during a trip to Assisi in 1987. Leach, of Dallas, and his wife, Rosemary, read Thomas Celano’s book on St. Francis while visiting sites connected to the saint.

Leach, a graduate of Loyola University in Chicago, father of nine, started out with a small print shop in Chicago. It opened in 1962, the year the Second Vatican Council began. Leach ran Argus Press, founded by his father, and developed it into Argus Communications, specializing in audiotapes, books and posters for a Catholic audience. Leach persuaded a former classmate, Jesuit Fr. John Powell, to write the highly popular book Why Am I Afraid to Love?

Leach started another successful company, Developmental Learning Materials, as an outgrowth of efforts to help a dyslexic son.

Leach’s daughter-in-law, Sheryl Stamps Leach, had the idea for Barney in 1988. Funds were tight in Texas because of an oil slump, but Leach agreed to fund Barney videos out of his back pocket. Barney made his way to PBS, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Leach went on to launch the Lyrick Studios and to produce another successful PBS series based on a Jack Russell Terrier named Wishbone. The Barney phenomenon has helped to fund Leach’s subsequent Catholic enterprises, such as an acclaimed five-hour documentary “The Faithful Revolution” on the Second Vatican Council.

His company’s Web site, www.lyrickstudios.com, provides more information on his enterprises, including the Assisi play.

National Catholic Reporter, September 22, 2000