Debra Lerer Epstein died in her home on February 18, with her husband and children beside her. She was 60.
Her two beloved children, Jake Epstein and Eliana Epstein, survive her, as does her devoted husband, Robert Hartshorne, whom she married in October of 2015, and her mother, Gertie Lerer. Debra's loss will be mourned by her two sisters, Mimi Blasiak and Amy Blayne, as well as nieces and nephews, cousins, and many loving friends.
Jake and Eliana are the children of Debra and her first husband, Dan Epstein.
Debra was a creative force with a refined aesthetic. She found beauty in everyday things and took the time to share her discoveries with those she loved. In addition to gardening and landscape design, she applied her energies over the years to painting, nicknames, word inventions and poems, including entries into the Epstein Dictionary, collecting, knitting and, most recently, mosaics. Debra was known for her wit and comic timing. She had a gift for intimate conversation that made anyone who spoke to her feel as though she was the only person in the world that mattered in that moment.
Debra Sue was born on August 22, 1956, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Lenny Lerer, a Holocaust survivor from Hrubieszow, Poland, and Gertie Lerer, nee Hertz, born in Chelm, Poland, and raised in Montreal, Canada.
Debra was trained as a botanist and graduated with a Master's Degree from University of Massachusetts. She was the Director of Education at Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center in Riverdale, New York, a "serene sanctuary in the midst of our bustling city." At Wave Hill, Debra will be remembered as a beloved colleague and a nurturing figure to young staff who, from the moment she began there, breathed creativity and energy into the education department. Until 2011 she served as the Director of Children's Education at the New York Botanical Gardens.
Throughout her illness, Debra was comforted by the caring professionals associated with the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center of Weill Cornell Medicine, and the Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center at Northern Westchester Hospital.
A private burial ceremony was held on February 19, 2017. Shiva at Rob and Debra's home will be held on Sunday, February 19th at 7:30pm and Monday, February 20th at 7:30pm. A memorial service is being planned at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts in memory of Debra be made to Wave Hill.
There will be a memorial service for Debra Epstein at Armor Hall on the grounds of Wave Hill this Thursday, April 13, 2017, at 5:30 pm. Wave Hill is located at West 249th Street and Independence Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York.