Remembering Kate Dickstein

Kate Dickstein — a longtime Westporter, beloved special education teacher and talented writing instructor — died Thursday in Mill Valley, California. She was 86.

Born in Wurzburg, Germany, Kate Lauber emigrated with her parents in 1936. They settled in the Bronx, not far from the original Yankee Stadium. Fluent in German and English, and as a Holocaust refugee raised by parents from a long line of German Jewish and Lutheran families, her life reference points spanned time, eras, cultures and long distances.

With a precocious and open mind, Kate excelled in school. She was active in many human rights initiatives, and established deep and meaningful lifelong friendships with people from all walks and phases of her life.

Kate earned an undergraduate degree from City College of New York, and a master’s degree in special education from Fairfield University. She spent more than 5 decades as a teacher, first at Weston Elementary School, then Coleytown Middle School, and finally at Staples High School.

She was known and highly regarded for effectively encouraging academic achievement among youngsters with different learning styles. Kate touched and lifted countless students, in a variety of learning environments. Her students adored her for her personal attention, care and compassion, and adherence to strict standards. She stayed in touch with many as they became adults and celebrated their accomplishments as though they were her extended family.

She also taught her colleagues. She was instrumental in the development of an “Understanding Disabilities” program, which put educators in special education students’ shoes. She was a mentor to many special education teachers of all ages.

Kate Dickstein

Kate was a talented artist, a lover of theater, opera, and jazz, classical and rock music, and an enthusiastic outdoorswoman. She particularly loved the north coast of Maine, where she spent many summers with her family and close friends, hiking, partying, making new friends and delighting in the magic of New England summers.

Kate was an avid reader. She had a playful sense of humor, and a ready laugh. She rejoiced in and worked hard to maintain special relationships with her childhood friends. Their families became important, joyful parts of her and her beloved husband Howard’s lives, and then of her own children’s sphere of friends.

As a daughter she was fiercely protective and supportive of her immigrant parents, who depended on her to help them navigate their new and unfamiliar world.

As a devoted wife of 65 years Kate was Howard’s greatest friend, supporter, protector and constructive critic.

Howard and Kate Dickstein

As a mother Kate was loving and doting, yet laissez faire in the most positive sense. She allowed her children space and time to be independent, and pursue their passions.

As a grandmother Kate took great pleasure in developing unique and deep connections with each of her five grandchildren. She listened to, coached and tutored them, showered them with unconditional love and affection, and maintained a perfect record of noting and celebrating their birthdays.

Kate wrote many short stories telling of her childhood memories and family history. She juxtaposed perspectives from the “old and new worlds.” Her experiences as an ever-assimilating U.S. citizen shaped her world view and infused her writing. Her family’s challenging journey gave her great empathy for all who she deemed persecuted by society.

She channeled and acted on that empathy in her professional and personal lives. She collaborated with local and national civil rights leaders in an effort to build bridges and develop understanding among disparate racial and socioeconomic groups, while always remaining true to her core values and modeling behaviors that positively influenced her family and friends.

There is much more to say, and her many admirers will say it in the months and years to come. Kate, and her rich and rewarding life will be forever remembered and treasured by all who knew her.

Kate is survived by her sons Peter and wife Lisa of San Francisco, California; Stephen and wife Natalie of Delray Beach, Florida; daughter Jane and husband Gordon of Mill Valley, California; her five adoring grandchildren Jordan, Anna, Jackson, Tess and Miller; her sister Irene and husband Chris, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

At her and her family’s request, Kate’s remembrance and life celebration service will be private. Contributions in Kate’s name may be made to Hospice by the Bay, 17 E. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Larkspur, CA 94939 (

13 responses to “Remembering Kate Dickstein

  1. Dan, your article is outstanding and a great tribute to a wonderful human being.
    I am telling my children to get in contact with you when I crap out to write my obituary. It won’t be as long or as impactful but I know it will be well written.

  2. I worked with Kate the three years I was at Coleytown Junior High School. Later I had her daughter at Long Lots Junior High School. And lastly I worked with her at Staples High School. Your tribute Dan to Kate is wonderful. She counseled me as a young teacher and helped me work more successfully with Westport students. But what I remember about her the most was her laughter and the fun aura that surrounded her at all times. She was always ready for a laugh! But she was a serious professional, especially when it came to her students with various disabilities. Yes, she helped me understand those too. She was one of those teachers you are lucky to work with over the years and one who you never will forget. She was one of the great ones and I think your tribute Dan certainly reflects that.

  3. Sandra Calise Cenatiempo

    Two amazing and beautiful people! They truly gave from their hearts. I’m so grateful and lucky to have known them ❤️💙

  4. I didn’t know her but remember her sons Peter and Stephen from soccer. Classy guys

  5. My condolences to the whole family for a special woman who will be missed. Xo

  6. David J. Loffredo


    Dan – I think it’s so great when you publish these, what amazing people walk amongst us.

  7. A wonderful Westport family.

  8. Wonderful Tribute Dan. A great Westport family, kind and humble. Amazing lady. Thoughts with Dickstein Family.

  9. I was lucky enough to work with Kate on several projects when I was on the staff of Staples. She always had her students at the forefront of her decisions. Thanks to Dan and Jim Honeycutt for such accurate and caring portraits of her.

  10. Kate was my friend, colleague, and mentor when I started teaching in Westport. I was inspired by her high standards laced with compassion. She laughed easily, and remained curious. I am saddened by her loss.

  11. Kate was a wonderful, enjoyable, instructional faculty associate during my time at CJHS/CMS. The insights she shared regarding “special education” benefitted me in a variety of ways!

  12. Elizabeth Marks (formerly Juviler)

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to such a wonderful woman. I was lucky enough to live next door to Kate and Howard for 8 years. They made my house feel like a home before the structure did. Their kindness and warmth was a blessing to my family and I am so grateful to have had that time with them.