Because Frank and Louise deLeeuw moved to Poughkeepsie when they were both retired, there is very little most of us know about their larger family and work lives. This article is a small attempt to address our ignorance at least about Frank.
Interview by Dare Thompsom
Frank’s father Henry was born and raised in Holland and had a career as a tobacco broker. His mother, Rachel Souhami, was born in Turkey but grew up in New York City and became a high school teacher. The
two met on a transatlantic steamer when Henry was traveling on business and Rachel was returning to NY, and once they reached New York City they got married! They lived in Amsterdam where they had one son,
Paul, in 1926 and then Frank in 1930. Both parents came from Jewish families but were not themselves practicing Jews. By 1935 Hitler was already occupying parts of Europe and between that danger and a job
offer from CBS for Frank’s father, they moved to NYC, finally settling in Manhasset on Long Island. It was a fortunate move. Back in Holland Henry’s brother and an aunt and uncle died in the camps.
Frank’s parents wanted their boys to have a religious education, so they joined Manhasset Monthly Meeting where the boys attended First Day School. Frank remembers one of the teachers he had as a
teenager there was outstanding. Frank and his brother were not particularly close both because of the four year age gap and because his brother was autistic and almost totally involved in music, a passion which
eventually became his profession. He especially enjoyed performing in and conducting operas, and he trained opera singers. While music doesn’t dominate Frank’s life, he too has always enjoyed it, and at Manhasset High School he played the flute in the school orchestra, an instrument that continues to bring him joy. At age 16, Frank went off to Harvard where he majored in economics and became involved in Quaker activities. In the summer of his junior year he attended a Quaker work camp in Duluth, Minnesota where he met Louise Mason from California, a student at Stanford. They got to know each other even better when camp ended and they traveled to Chicago together on their return to their respective hometowns. Frank recalled thinking after only two weeks with her that “my life would be very happy if I were married to this woman.” He adds, “It took a little longer for her.” They corresponded regularly after that and got married two years later, when they were both 21.
The couple lived in Boston until 1953 when Frank finished work on his master’s degree in public administration at Harvard. He then accepted a job as a senior statistical clerk at the San Francisco Federal
Reserve Bank. He said it was a good job that gave him an opportunity to do many different things, and when he was still in his mid-twenties, he was offered a job at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC
where he and Louise ended up living for 45 years. By the time of this move to D.C., their first two sons, David and Peter, had been born. Nick and Ben came along fairly soon after in Washington. Louise focused at first on the family and gradually, as time allowed, on her career as a psychotherapist. Meanwhile Frank continued to impress his fellow economists and researchers at the Federal Reserve Board where he was in the Business Conditions section and then headed a new division called Special Studies where he did mathematical modeling. After fourteen years at “the Fed,” and during the turmoil of the ‘60s, Frank spent a year of teaching at SUNY Buffalo. After that he spent six years at the Urban Institute, a think tank, and then went on to work for the newly-created Congressional Budget Office. It was headed by
its founding director, Alice Rivlin, an economist and expert on the U. S. federal budget and macroeconomic policy who served as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve. Frank was one of only a few assistants
and delighted in his work for the trailblazing economist writing reports and testimony and doing other requirements of the office. But as “wonderful” as the job was in principle, Frank found the
competitive, political atmosphere was giving him headaches and insomnia and he finally decided to leave. He ended up next at the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the Commerce Department where he eventually was awarded that Department’s Gold Medal. Their website states that this medal is given to those individuals, groups, or organizations who have made “extraordinary achievements in support of the critical objectives of the Department of Commerce with a significant beneficial effect on the Nation or world.” During those years Frank did a lot of tutoring – mostly with high schoolers and mostly in math. For two years Louise and he also worked together on an English language program she initiated for the Central American cleaning staff of the building they lived in. When they came to Poughkeepsie he was able to continue his commitment by working with Literacy Volunteers. While in Washington, he continued to be a practicing Quaker but struggled to find a meeting for worship that met his needs. The messages at the District of Columbia monthly meeting were too political for him, but he eventually found a 9 AM splinter worship group that was more satisfying. In Poughkeepsie, he appreciates the emphasis on love and truth in our meeting for worship. Frank retired from government work at age 60 but continued as a consultant for the next ten years. In 1990 when the Soviet Union was breaking up, he was brought in as an economics consultant to several of
the newly-created countries and even got called to Indonesia and elsewhere in the Far East. By the turn of the century he had finally managed to scale down and truly retire. In 2003 he and Louise were able to move
to Poughkeepsie to be closer to Nick and his family. The Meeting has been blessed to have had both Louise and Frank in our Meeting since then, to witness their strong and loving marriage and devoted family, and to have them with us in worship and celebrations. As Louise’s memory failed and Frank’s eyesight and hearing faded, we witnessed how admirably they dealt with these difficulties.
When Louise died in August 2018, her loss was grieved by our Meeting and in worship. Frank lost not only his beloved partner but his “eyes,” as he had been so grateful that Louise could read both to and for him. Unable to drive, they had moved from their home on College Avenue to College View Tower near Vassar and the shops on Raymond Avenue, but navigation now became even more challenging for Frank. His hearing loss further isolated him. Frank openly shared the struggles he was experiencing and recently the good news that some of the struggles are easing. He credits his cat for part of this change. Now that Cinnamon realizes that Louise is gone, he has turned his full attention to comforting Frank. A special friend from the Meeting is another reason. Brook Nam, a fellow volunteer at Green Haven, is listening to audio books with him once a week – currently Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By – and she has even influenced him to be more of a vegetarian. Brook feels grateful that she has gotten to know Frank better and admires his realistic and
optimistic nature and his dry sense of humor. “He doesn’t dwell on regrets and physical challenges,” she says. Frank is close to and supported by his boys and their families, particularly Nick, Julie. Josh, Leslie and Lydia here in Poughkeepsie. Peter and his family were here recently from Chapel Hill for Frank’s 90th birthday, and when Louise died, all four families visited and worshipped with us when we gathered to remember Louise. They brought joyful remembrances to that sad time. “We really enjoyed our children,” he said with a smile. A special treat at our Christmas celebrations has been to watch Frank play music with his
grandchildren. The music of his own childhood continues to be a source of pleasure to him, although he is frustrated that the pandemic is keeping him from playing his flute with a local trio. When he listens to music, Bach is a favorite. When asked why, he said it’s the likeliest to put him in a zen state when he can accept the whole world just as it is. In these challenging times, we can use a little more Bach in our lives. We can also be grateful to have Frank as a warm and wise F/friend and an inspiring example of a life that continues to be well-lived.