Angy Lebowitz, an energetic little fighter for peace, racial equality, universal health care and socialism, died February 18, 2022 at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus, NJ. She was 101 years old.
I was editor of Popular Weekly World for 11 years and has come to know and love Angy for her unwavering dedication to keeping this beacon of truth burning. She was a member of the Communist Party of USA (CPUSA) and first started distributing the daily worker in Jamaica, Queens as a young woman in the 1930s. Half a century later, she was delivering the paper in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, a block or two from our PWW office, rain or shine.
There’s an old Party saying that describes Angy: “Lead from the ranks. She never aspired to a leadership role, but her understanding of class struggle, racist and gender oppression was sharp. Direct and candid, she was never shy about telling us if she thought we were wandering off course or missing a story that needed to be reported. She was an untitled ruler.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on August 5, 1920, Angy’s earliest memory is of her mother’s death when she was five years old. Her mother had left her older sister alone for a few minutes to borrow a cup of milk. The child’s clothes caught fire and she died. Her mother was so traumatized by the accident that she committed suicide. Angy said the tragedy made her decide to dedicate her life to helping others.
Angy graduated from nursing school at 19 and started working at Bellevue Hospital. She was assigned to an infectious disease unit with 60 patients. In an interview with PWW, she said she would “never forget the patient who died on me. He was a Chinese who didn’t speak English. He just looked at me, with a pathetic look that said, ‘Help me.’ I will never forget this man.
She condemned efforts to limit multilingual care, which resulted in the inability to have caregivers fluent in other languages who could help desperately ill patients communicate with their doctors and nurses.
In 1942, Angy joined the US Army Nurses Corps, where she served as a nurse in North Africa and Italy. She rose to the rank of first lieutenant and received a bronze star for her service. She was assigned to care for soldiers who suffered serious facial injuries. She said PWW“When part of your face is blown away, a very real part of who you are goes with it. I did my best, both as a medical professional and as a human being.
There have been happier times. She met Captain Hugh Mulzac, the first African-American captain of an American Merchant Navy ship. Coincidentally, his neighbor, Bernie Kassbaum, was the chief engineer of this ship. On another occasion, she met other CPUSA members, fighters from the Office of Strategic Services, who had served as volunteers with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion during the Spanish Civil War fighting Francoism.
“They were heroes,” Angy said. Ultimately, OSS units were disbanded and many Spanish Civil War veterans and OSS volunteers were targeted in the anti-Communist witch hunts in the 1950s.
After the war, Angy worked as a nurse in public hospitals in New York and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Hunter College. She endured FBI surveillance and other repressions during the Cold War but never gave in to fear and remained active in all Communist Party struggles.
Angy was very close to her sister, Rose, and was embraced by her entire family, which included her niece, Ellen (Zackin) Schwartz, her nephew Al Schwartz, her great-nephew Ben Schwartz, her great-niece Anya Schwartz and all members of the Schwartz, Lidsky and Montz families.
In 2008, at the age of 86, Angy moved to Teaneck to live with Ellen and Al. She enjoyed a vibrant and loving family life for nearly 15 years. She attended a daily senior program at the Jewish Community Center and spent many summer days in Harriman State Park. She visited her great-niece, Anya, in Vermont every year, where she enjoyed a kind of “celebrity status.”
During these visits to “Camp Angy”, she enjoys many gatherings, where she is the guest of honor and the star of the show. Whether it’s canoeing on Lake Champlain, visiting Bernie Sanders’ office (and leaving a donation), singing labor songs around a campfire, or telling stories at a multi-generational crowd, Angy left a lasting impression on everyone she met. And long before queer characters appeared on television or anti-discrimination laws were passed, Angy’s message was, “To everyone you love, I love.”
We celebrate Angy’s life: a beautiful and long productive life well lived and well loved. A memorial in honor of Angy Lebowitz is planned, date and place to be specified. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the memory of Angy Lebowitiz at Doctors Without Borders (Doctors Without Borders).
Gabe Falsetta, Ellen Schwartz and Anya Schwartz contributed to this article.