LEBOW KATHERINE EILEEN FITZPATRICK LEBOW Katherine Eileen Fitzpatrick Lebow, mother, teacher, author and wife of Morton Lebow, died at her home in Washington, DC on January 2, 2022. She was 96 years old. Known by all as Eileen, she was born to Mary Elizabeth (Hannick) Fitzpatrick and Frank Farrel Fitzpatrick in the Panama Canal Zone on May 30, 1925, where she grew up with her older brothers and sister, Francis, Martin and Mary – all now gone. Their mother worked as a private nurse for families and hospitals in the area, their father as a payroll assistant for the Panama Canal Company. After graduating from Canal Zone’s Balboa High School, Eileen moved to California, where she earned BA and MA degrees in English from UCLA, and during a graduate class in Middle English in 1948, she met her future husband. She married in 1951, became the mother of three children and eventually began working as a middle school substitute, first in Baltimore County, then in Montgomery County, MD, where she became a popular replacement for teachers who experienced long-term absence at. Takoma Park Junior High. In the 1980s, she began a successful career as a historian and author. She calmed her nervousness about flying by researching and writing important stories about early aviation pioneers. Her first book, Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz (Smithsonian Press) was sparked by curiosity about a Wright EX biplane called “Vin Fiz” that hung from the rafters of a Quonset cabin that housed the beginnings of National Air and Space Museum at the National Mall. The book depicted the 49-day saga of America’s first transcontinental flight in 1911. Her second, A Grandstand Seat (Praeger Press), explored for the first time the important work of America’s Balloon Corps during World War I. She accompanied these books with The Bright Boys (Greenwood Press), a story about New York City’s Townsend Harris High School, and Before Amelia (Brassey’s Press), which portrayed some of the many female flyers who advanced aviation in Russia, Europe, Britain and the United States before Amelia Earhart rose to the skies and prominent. Eileen self-published two subsequent books, The Navy’s Godfather, about John Rodgers, the war of 1812, and the early days of the U.S. Navy; and Web of Fear, a novel based on the life of a friend who suffered from the abuse of anonymous accusations during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. She loved a good martini, raw Pamlico Sound oysters, plentiful slices of chocolate babka – preferably from Zabars – and traveling almost anywhere in the world to hear the Julliard String Quartet. She was a devout Catholic who lived her faith in every moment and abhorred the use of religion to divide people or spread evil, intolerance and hatred. Her husband saw this firsthand at a basketball game between teams from City College New York and St. Louis. John’s University in the late 1940s. When the multiracial and ethnic City College team took command, two St. John’s fans in front of them shouting racist and anti-Semitic slander. Eileen leaned forward, tapped one of them on the shoulder and said, “I do not like what I hear from you,” he remembered. As the man whirled around to give her a hard time, she emphatically added, “And my name is Fitzpatrick.” It ended the mockery. In 1968, when Poor People’s March brought people from all over the nation to Resurrection City, Washington DC, a young pastor in her church invited marchers to spend the night in the church’s rectory. Shortly after, the church sent him to pack. Eileen went too. Asked why they drove to another church a few weeks later, she simply said to her children, “If our church is not good enough for everyone, it probably is not good enough for us.” Eileen Lebow is survived by her husband of 71 years, her children, Ellen Gaskill (the late James Barrie Gaskill), Edward Lebow (Vivian Spiegelman) and Sarah Tolson (Howard Tolson), five grandchildren and a great-grandson and loving nieces, nephews. No service at this time due to Covid. Her ashes will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. Instead of flowers or gifts, the family welcomes contributions in Eileen’s name to local food banks and programs that feed them in need. No service at this time due to Covid. Her ashes will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. Instead of flowers or gifts, the family welcomes contributions in Eileen’s name to local food banks and programs that feed the needy.
Published by The Washington Post January 27, 2022.