Leonard “Len” Gaby who, with his wife, Debbie, founded the Sleep America retail chain in 1994, died of cancer Aug. 26 in Phoenix. He was 71.
Gaby served as chief executive officer of the Phoenix-based retailer, which the couple grew to 45 storefronts across Arizona. By 2006, when they sold the company to Sleep Country Canada, annual sales topped $50 million. Gaby continued with the business before retiring in 2009. In 2015, Mattress Firm purchased the chain from Sleep Country.
Gaby was a mattress industry veteran prior to co-founding Sleep America, having spent 20 years—from 1971 to 1991—with Simmons Bedding Co., where he rose through the ranks to chief operating officer.
He and his wife were known for their philanthropic work and founded Sleep Country Charities, which was renamed Debbie Gaby Charities in 2004. The organization donates 100% of monies raised to community-based charities across Arizona. In 25 years, it has donated to more than 500 organizations in the state.
During his retirement, Gaby focused on consulting with entrepreneurs and business leaders and served on the executive board of the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute, an organization founded by the former U.S. Supreme Court justice that promotes civic engagement and education.
According to an obituary published by the Gaby family, “What those who were fortunate enough to know Len will remember most is that if Len passed through your life, he left you a better person. … Len was a mentor, a teacher who loved nothing more than helping others figure out their keys to success. No one who spent any significant amount of time with Len escaped his astute insights and advice.”
Gaby shared much of that advice in his autobiography and business book published this year, “The Art of the Mensch: My Theory of Infinite Wealth.”
He earned an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo and was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.
In addition to his wife Debbie, survivors include son Jonathan, daughter Rebecca Halioua, stepson James Fonville, stepdaughter Tobie Wilburn, daughter-in-law Laurie Gaby, son-in-law Nessim Halioua and two grandchildren.
The family suggests that memorials be made to DebbieGabyCharities.org.