Randie Leibowitz. Her infectious smile. Her joie de vivre. Randie brightened each room she entered, especially the San Pedro, Southern California Easter Seals Zoom meets.

Who was Randie? She was a daughter. She was a sister. She was a friend. She was someone who created beautiful needlepoints, crewel embroidery, beaded fruit, played Mahjong, and loved cookies, people, and Rock n’ Roll, not in that order. To quote my husband, Marc as he shared in his condolences to her sister Sandi, “I’m heartbroken to hear about Randie. She was one incredible lady. Her accomplishments in life were nothing short of amazing. You can be assured she’s comfortable in your mom’s arms again, now resting in peace.”

Who was Randie? Randie was my cousin. She was three and a half years my senior. When we were kids, maybe 10 and 7 years old, we played cards, ate too much ice cream and potato chips, built sand castles and rode the waves at the seashore together. We hung out in places like the Rockaways, Canarsie, Buddies, Flatbush Avenue, and other must-do Brooklyn digs our moms dragged us.I saw Randie perform on stage in Damn Yankees and learnt to see the world through her eyes, Randie was my cousin, but she was foremost my friend. As adults, we watched newly released movies before they appeared on screen, thanks to her Hollywood agent, sister and my cousin, Sandi Love. The three of us shared meals on two coasts with forks, chopsticks, and fingers as we devoured plates filled with pasta, hibachi cooked lobster and steak, or maybe brisket and chocolate covered matzah as we recited the four questions.

Randie was my why. Randie fueled my passion to become a teacher of exceptional children.

Randie taught me that the word, exceptional, defined services, but never capped a person’s potential. Randie taught me about equity and inclusion before the legislation spelled it out. Randie taught me patience. Randie taught me that life is a process, never a race, or a competition with pecking orders on who owns the answers. Randie taught me about perspectives as I experienced the world through her eyes. Here are a few short clips from a 2018 online post accessed here, with my response to the question,

Who has had the biggest influence on your teaching and why?

The person who had the greatest influence on my teaching is my cousin, Randie. She taught me that a person is not defined by a difference. Randie, delivered by forceps at birth, back in the early 1950’s, is a few years older than me. As an eight year old I knew that my cousin sometimes required help. When we played cards or a board game, she needed things explained in a step-by-step way. Randie also knew how to do things I could not do; she created beautiful framed needlepoints and pretty bouquets of beaded flowers and fruit. I learned at an early age that Randie is much smarter than the people who stare at her because she has what is labeled intellectual disability.
We spent many fun hours as kids, and now we enjoy each other’s company as adults. We went to the beach, watched the same movies, and listened to the same music. Today, we still do those same things. Randie is a productive sixty-five year old adult because of the academic and emotional support received. Since I grew up with Randie, I realize that everyone learns, but just not the same way. My cousin taught me more than any journal article I read. As an educator, inclusion coach, and author, it is important for me to continually communicate that special does not translate to less. We all have exceptionalities, and like my cousin, we all can shine. Labels never define a life. Thank you Randie.

Her mom, my Aunt Ann, loved and protected her with a ferocity as did her stepdad, Joe, and her father Danny. Her sister, Sandi, ensured that the intensity of care and love Randie received continued after their mom passed in 2016. That’s when Randie moved from New Jersey to California. She thrived on the west coast under her sister’s tutelage and the incredible support of San Pedro Easter Seals. The online classes were the highlight of her days, as she participated in her home in California, when she traveled across the country with Sandi, or during the tougher times when she was in the hospital receiving treatments.

Randie connected with people. She listened, asked questions when she needed to understand more, and like a sponge soaked up the knowledge and skills and flourished as a beautiful flower in the garden of life. While I walked my dog, Maggie Mae, by the Hudson River, this morning, a fellow dog mom and a neighbor who lived in my building asked me if everything was okay. She communicated that the bounce in my walk was off. I explained that my cousin Randie passed last week. I thanked my neighbor for her kind words of condolence offered and then knew that whatever and whenever I thought, wrote, or spoke about Randie, I

would insert a bounce. I glanced toward the river, thought about Randie and smiled as the early sun reflected on the water. Randie smiled back from a glass shelf in my heart.

If you’d like to make a donation to Southern California Easter Seals in Randie Leibowitz’s memory, please access the Memorial page at this link or QR code.

Rest in peace, Randie, a beautiful daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and now a smiling angel.

Love your cousin,

You are invited to look at this star and breathe in at each vertex as you think about something Randie did or said that gave you an extra bounce or smile.

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