Close, Leo St John (1934–77), paraplegic athlete, was born 20 October 1934, the son of Leo Joseph Close, inspector of schools, and his wife, Kathleen Mary, née O'Connor, who lived at 16 Berea Terrace, Dublin. He was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, Mount St Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, and University College, Dublin, before studying for the priesthood at All Hallows College, Dublin. All Hallows College was specifically used to prepare priests who intended going to a diocese outside of Ireland. On 14 June 1959 he was ordained for the diocese of Dunedin in New Zealand, becoming the first priest to be ordained in a wheelchair. He had broken his back in an accident during a tour of religious shrines in France in 1955.
In 1960 the rehabilitation tuberculosis centre (RTB) sent a nine-man team, including Close, to the Paraplegic Olympics in Rome. He competed successfully in the table tennis and archery events. The nine-man team were unhappy with the treatment they received from the RTB, and Close with four other members of the team decided to establish a wheelchair association on their return to Ireland. In November 1960 they met in the round room of the Mater Hospital in Dublin and founded the Irish Wheelchair Association. Close, Jack Kerrigan and Oliver Murphy were the driving force of the association in its early years. The association successfully sent a team to the Tokyo Paraplegic Olympics in 1964, with Close again a winning competitor.
In 1964 Close went to New Zealand after he was appointed head of religious studies at Dunedin. In New Zealand he also founded a wheelchair association, for which he was awarded an OBE; he became a national figure. He also competed for New Zealand in the Paraplegic Olympics at Tel Aviv in 1968. Close was a man of tremendous energy driven by the desire to change public perception of people with disabilities. He died in New Zealand in January 1977.