Deborah Lowenstein: 'The luckiest life' comes to a close

Henry Lowenstein and wife, Deb.

Henry Lowenstein with his wife of 22 years, Deborah Goodman Lowenstein.

As the story goes, David Lowenstein approached his father after a Passover Seder in 1992 and told him he was thinking of asking one of the guests out on a date.

Legendary Denver theatre producer Henry Lowenstein fumbled for an appropriate response to this unexpectedly awkward father-son moment.

“Well, son, I hate to tell you this,” the elder Lowenstein said, “ … but I think she’s interested in me.”

The woman was Deborah Goodman, a free-spirited California astrologer and masseuse who was, indeed, interested in the older man who had come to be known as “the father of Denver theatre” over four decades as a producer at the Bonfils and Civic theatres. They were married for 22 years until Henry’s death last year at age 89.
Deborah Lowenstein said she was “the luckiest woman” for having met and married Henry Lowenstein. 

This morning, Deborah Lowenstein died at age 64.

She was diagnosed with uterine cancer several years ago but after surgeries and radiation, it looked as if she was out of the woods. Then, just days after Henry’s life celebration last year, Deborah was told the tumors in her abdomen had returned, and that neither chemotherapy nor surgery would be able to completely defeat them.

Deborah Lowenstein

“She modeled for me how to be a strong, sassy, feminine woman,” added Deb’s friend Catherine Freeland, Associate Vice Dean at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

Lowenstein’s granddaughter, Nyssa, authored a recent Facebook post thanking Deb for encouraging her artistic creativity. “She has taught me a lot about words and passion, the stars and independence,” Nyssa wrote on Deb’s 64th birthday. “But she was always the one to remind me to stop and smell the roses. To experience life and not fall into the wormhole that is drive. But rather to poke my head out and enjoy the sunshine. I couldn’t appreciate her more.”

Deb Lowenstein, 26 years her husband’s younger, was a graduate of the Boulder School of Massage Therapy and a proud member of the Denver Women’s Press Club.  She adored Scrabble, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, butternut squash soup and poppy-seed muffins.

Read our full tribute to Henry Lowenstein

“She is inspirational, full of life, and has had countless interesting life experiences,” wrote Nyssa Lowenstein. “She is a woman I could talk to for days about literally anything. I’m eternally grateful for this strong woman in my life.”

A celebration of Deborah Lowenstein’s life will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at the Denver Women’s Press Club, 1325 Logan St., 80203. In lieu of flowers, charitable donations may be made to the Denver Women’s Press Club at the same address.

In addition, Lowenstein’s friend Lois Harvey intends to honor both a previous promise to Lowenstein and her love of Lewis Carroll by hosting an all-comers “half-birthday tea party” from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 26 at Harvey’s West Side Books, 3434 W. 32nd St. in northwest Denver. (All are welcome at both events.) 

Deborah Goodman was born May 26, 1951, to artist parents Eli Goodman, a composer and musician, and Helen Hockett Goodman, a singer and actress. In her early 20s, Deb and her best friend, Mahlah Holden, spent many hours at a Hollywood coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard smoking cigarettes and talking about whether Deborah should go to nursing school or become an astrologer. “We decided astrologer would be best,” Holden said.

David Lowenstein QuoteDeb moved to Denver in 1975 together with her brother, Dana. She was starting over after a relationship gone bad. “They had plans on buying land, starting a farm and living like hippies,” said Freeland. After Dana and Deb’s parents divorced, their mother moved to Denver to be closer to her children. 

Deb met David Lowenstein at the same Unitarian Church they attended in Denver, and they were both guests at that fateful Passover Seder hosted by mutual friend Howard Ainbinder. David brought his father as his guest, and that’s how Deb met her future husband. Henry Lowenstein’s first wife, Dorrie, the mother of their three children, had died two years earlier, in 1990. Henry and Deborah married in 1993.

“When my mother passed away, my father was a shell of himself until he met Deb, who not only loved and supported him, and he her, she also got him to mellow out and relax,” David Lowenstein said at his father’s life celebration. 

Henry Lowenstein was a friend to hundreds in the local theatre community, but he developed a special fondness for Brian Freeland, founder of Denver’s only true, sustained experimental theatre company of the past two decades, The LIDA Project. Though separated by nearly 50 years, the two shared a rebellious artistic kinship – and their wives developed a similar bond. The Freelands even purchased the Lowensteins’ house on Grant Street, where they would eventually raise their two children before moving to New York in 2013.

“I keep coming back to our first invitation to dinner at Henry and Deb’s house on Grant Street in ‘97 or ‘98,” Catherine Freeland said. “We were the youngest of all the invited couples. While Henry was the initial draw, I became enamored with Deb. She was in her element – hosting interesting people, serving food I had never tasted before and keeping the conversation moving from Henry’s memories to current events to literature. Her energy kept the evening moving.”

Catherine and Deb had the commonality of being married to visionary local artists. The newly married Catherine Freeland had stopped doing theater and found herself “unclear how to behave in that (wife) role,” as she put it. “Deb showed me how to be a supportive partner, but not a shrinking violet.”

On the night of that introductory dinner party, Freeland remembers leaving the house holding hands with her husband, and skipping. Really. “Deb remembers watching us skip away,” she said, “and I remember vividly doing the skipping. 

“That night would spark a decades-long friendship.”


Deborah Goodman Lowenstein and Donna Smith at Henry Lowenstein’s life celebration last year. Photo by John Moore.

Catherine Freeland called Lowenstein an astute astrologer who helped her through many years with the aid of her astrological charts. When Freeland became pregnant with her second child, she said, “I was terrified to have a Pisces. And I am convinced my fear prevented me from having our daughter, Lillian, until two weeks after my due date – in an attempt to have an Aries. I was scheduled to be induced but, after talking with Deb for two hours about the virtues of Pisces, I went into labor. Six hours later, our little Pisces was born.”

Lowenstein’s father died in March 2002, her brother at the end of 2002 and her mother in December 2003. She is survived by Lowenstein’s three sons, Daniel, David and Joshua.

When the DCPA NewsCenter posted a tribute to Henry Lowenstein after his death last year, Deborah wrote in, saying:

“Today I was thinking that I was the luckiest woman to have found and married Henry. But then I needed to amend that to I AM the luckiest woman. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect and affection for him. I AM the luckiest woman, but I sure don’t know how I got to be so lucky.”

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Our video tribute to Henry Lowenstein, above
Related coverage:

Read our essay on the life of Henry Lowenstein
Lowenstein’s accomplishments read into Congressional Record
Click here to see our full gallery of photos from the Henry Lowenstein celebration

Deborah Lowenstein

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