I am Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, one of Diane’s stepsons. I knew her for more than 35 years, from the time her oldest son Alex and I were in a joint second/third grade classroom. While it’s nearly impossible to encapsulate such a vital and dynamic person as Diane, when talking and thinking about her with Dunreith and Aidan in preparation for talking today, several of her major traits stood out to us.
Diane was a marvelous listener.
Beyond the training she had as a counselor, she had a deep empathic sense, forged during her years in Luxembourg after World War II. It let her make the person she was speaking with feel safe, and listen to what a person was saying, what they meant, what they felt. She also could connect how whatever they were discussing related to their life as a whole. Dad has talked to me often about how he had lived 52 years before feeling completely understood by another person.
Diane gave that to him.
Her listening was a central part of why he felt that way. Dunreith treasured the walks and excursion she and Diane took in Evanston, in Cambridge and in Rockport for that same quality. Running the gamut from children to George Eliot, their conversations were often punctuated by hearty chuckles on both sides.
Diane was enormously generous.
I am confident that all of us experienced and benefited from the example of, Diane’s unstinting generosity toward those she knew and loved – her family, friends and circle of intimates – and those she was just meeting for the first time. Dunreith talked about asking Diane why she had so much loose change in the Cambridge house: her response was so that she could share what she had with people who needed it. Beyond her material sharing, Diane could not have been more welcoming and inclusive toward the three of us as a family from the moment she met Dunreith and Aidan.
She had a wonderful sense of occasion.
I used to live on a community service center in Kentucky, where the father of the family once told me, “I don’t have much, Jeff, but I live rich.”
Diane definitely lived rich, making sure that her children had enough money for popcorn at the movies during lean financial times and telling Aidan that he could get one of every kind of candy in Tuck’s. (Years later he described the experience as one of his life’s greatest moments.) From calling Dunreith mid-day at Facing History and saying, “Ha, ha, you’re at work and I’m not,” to sipping white wine while watching a sunset at the Headlands in Rockport, Diane treated every day as cause for celebration.
She showed this sensibility on a rainy weekday night in July 1990.
Dad and Diane cooked an 18-pound turkey that they packed up with some brie cheese, potato chips and matzah to deliver to Fenway Park, where my partner and I were selling Green Monster t-shirts. Having tried with very little success during the previous month to establish my street cred on Lansdowne Street, I have to admit that the sight of my slightly giddy father and stepmother lugging a basket filled with these goodies did not initially fill me with either joy or excitement.
But then our stand was swarmed by the street’s vendors and passersby, all of whom devoured the food with grateful ferocity, with the notable exception of Sal, a homeless gentleman, who informed me, “These chips are stale.”
On the other hand, the members of a nearby sausage stand instantly proclaimed it the best meal they had ever eaten. Three years later, when my brother Jon worked the same job, he would field occasional hopeful queries from the other vendors about the arrival of another turkey.
Diane just laughed the whole time.
Diane’s laughter encompassed many of the qualities I have just described. She had a robust laugh that erupted from within, subsumed her entire person and lasted for minutes on end.
Diane laughed at the silliness of situations, like when I got a $275 ticket and my car towed at O’Hare Airport after running in to pick her and Dad up at the baggage claim. Now, honesty does compel me to say that Dad found the moment a tad less humorous as he followed Diane’s instructions and pulled out his credit card to pay the man in the towing lot, but Diane acted like this was the funniest thing she had ever seen.
She laughed with and about her family, which was her biggest source of joy. In addition to spending time with family members, she loved to tell stories about us.
Like about the time her grandson Max, after observing his father, kept hitting his hands on a desk and repeating, “Damnit, damnit, damnit.”
When asked what he was doing, Max replied, “I’m working.”
But she also laughed as a statement of defiance during all her years of medical difficulty.
Diane was remarkably courageous and unfailingly positive during her lengthy and increasingly challenging ordeal. Drawing strength from the tradition of strong women in her family that included her mother and her Aunt Clara, both of whom she revered, she would chuckle when you would inquire about her health and then turn the conversation to how you were doing.
Deeply held values about what and who mattered in life underpinned Diane’s actions – beliefs about the centrality of family, friends and faith, about recognizing and embracing life’s occasionally absurd nature, and, even when times are really hard, maintaining an upbeat and giving attitude.
Diane had wisdom and strength and courage and perspective, and we are better and richer for the qualities and the gift of her presence. Dad was like a flower who bloomed during the nearly quarter century that he spent with his Honeybunch, becoming a better husband, father, friend and man. And I would suggest that Diane enriched all of our lives. That is why we are all here to honor her, and why, even as we mourn her physical passing, we draw comfort in knowing that her laughter, generosity, and spirit is with us now, and always will be.
Diane, we thank you.
We miss you.
And we love you.