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SACRAMENTO — The founder of the Leatherby’s Family Creamery has passed away at the age of 81.

Family members say Dave Leatherby Sr. was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and infection, and died Sunday evening.

Leatherby, who worked for his father’s café in Iowa, decided to start an ice cream parlor after looking for a business that catered to families and had the potential for longevity. His first store on Arden Way opened in 1982 and quickly established a reputation for a friendly atmosphere, quality ice cream and large portions.

Over two dozen franchises opened around the country shortly after, but the franchise operation failed several years later.

However, three family-run stores in the Sacramento area prospered. The operation is now run by his sons.

Leatherby most recently joined an effort by critics of Sacramento Catholic Diocese Bishop Jaime Soto to have him resign. Leatherby said Soto alienated church members and also retaliated against his grandson, a Catholic priest, for blowing the whistle on alleged sexual misconduct by several priests in the diocese.

In a recent interview with, he said, “I am a happy person. My wife and I have had a glorious, rich, full life,” attributing that to his Catholic faith.

That happiness was apparent to family members and customers alike. Many of his 10 children, 30 grandchildren and 44 grandchildren have worked at his ice cream stores.