Leah Justine Barlow, a mostly human creature of rare magnificence, flowering eloquence, laser-like perception and sublime beauty, passed from this world on the dance floor, full of joy, beside her beloved Elliott at 12:28 a.m. on Saturday, August 7, 2021, after suffering a sudden catastrophic cardiac event. Leah had been increasingly aware of a recurring heart irregularity and had been actively seeking treatment for the past year.
Born June 20, 1982, Leah’s young life was spent amidst the wide-open spaces of Bar Cross Ranch in Cora, Wyo., and then Pinedale, Wyo. Growing up between the unconventional adventure of life with her father John Perry Barlow and the safety and stability of her mother Elaine, even as a young person, her essential paradoxical nature danced between wild, untamable spirit and responsible guide and protector of those she loves, as primarily manifest in relationship with her younger sisters, Anna and Amelia.
Leah wove a life of passion, beauty, honesty and an unmitigated devotion to the presence of each emergent moment. From NYU to Salt Lake City, to Oakland, from studies in writing and Feng Shui, to the never-to-be-repeated underground culture of the West Coast in the early 2000s, Leah’s intricate web of deep, authentic friendships was her first great work of art. Her unflinching reflections, compassionate ear, gracious laughter and unconditional acceptance are just some of the aspects of her being that made her such a treasured friend to so many.
On Oct. 19, 2017, Leah and Elliott’s lives were transformed forever by the birth of their daughter Willah Brave Barlow Dunwody in Los Angeles, Calif., where they still reside. In the words of Leah’s own mother Elaine, “Leah’s dedication to Willah was unsurpassed.” Their home has been a place of wonder, delight and imaginative exploration, costume parties and piano sing-alongs often fueled by their dearest friend and live-in family member, Mitchell Kulkin, dubbed “Babu” by Willah.
Leah mothered Willah as an equal. She listened with every ounce of her being to the spoken and unspoken language of Willah from the moment of birth, and she allowed for the bond of their love to be the teacher and instructor of how-to mother. In Leah’s own words: ”Watching Willah become herself is like unwrapping a gift that at first you don't know what it is, then you think you get it and its pretty cute, but then it starts to unwrap itself and you realize that the gift is the universe looking at you through eyes that look like yours and that it will stun and delight and horrify and mystify you with its revelations for the rest of its life.”
When her father, JPB, became very ill, Leah stepped in as a profoundly competent and endlessly devoted caretaker, remaining by his side until his death in 2018. Then, in 2019, Leah opened her home to her mother Elaine when she needed it the most and offered that same stability and deep care that Leah had received from her as a child.
Leah is survived by her beloved husband, William Elliott Dunwody VII, 3-year-old daughter, Willah Brave Barlow Dunwody, her mother, Elaine Parker Barlow, and two sisters, Amelia Rose Barlow and Anna Winter Barlow, and her entire Dunwody family, including Elliott and Beth Dunwody, Ashley and Charles Ladson, Mary Katherine Dunwody and beloved nephews, Smith and Basel. She was predeceased by her father, John Perry Barlow. Furthermore, Leah leaves in her iridescent wake a seemingly infinite and wildly diverse global web of all of those who have been irrevocably enlivened by her love. There is no one who knew her who did not love her, and the wild luminescence of her life will live on within those broken open hearts unendingly.
A private ceremony will be held with her family in Macon, Ga., with a community memorial in Los Angeles to follow at a later date.
The family wishes to express their deepest gratitude for the outpouring of love and support in all its many forms during this time of profound loss and appreciates the recognition for their need for privacy, as they process this unimaginable tragedy.
A fund of abundance is being put together for Willah’s life and education and can be accessed via LeahJustineBarlow.com for memorial gifts.
Please visit www.hartsmort.com to express condolences.