Lawrence Howard Breakstone, 80

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 11:15pm

Lawrence Howard Breakstone, 80, of Block Island, Rhode Island, and Andes, New York, passed away peacefully in his island home, surrounded by beloved family and dear friends, on June 27, 2018. Larry, son of Rose and Israel Breakstone, was born in 1938 in the Bronx, where he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from The City College of New York and a master’s degree in educational psychology from New York University.

For many years, Larry worked as a teacher, administrator, and union chapter chairperson in the New York City public school system. He entered the profession first as a counselor and teacher and went on to serve as an assistant principal at P.S. 171 in East Harlem. Under the leadership of Anthony Alvarado, superintendent of District 2, Larry was the trusted liaison between the largely Latinx parent body, the teachers’ union, and the school district during the tumultuous battle over community control of the public schools. Larry was a visionary educator who brought empathy into the disciplinary system and the principles of meditation and yoga into the classroom, anticipating the current “mindfulness” movement in education by many years. His personal ideology inspired a deep commitment to global, national, and local politics. Most recently, he worked tirelessly to pass anti-fracking legislation in New York State, ultimately helping to ban fracking in the hamlet of Andes.

Larry possessed a rare ability to combine his kind-hearted, methodical, centered approach to art, work, politics, and life with his philosophical and spiritual beliefs, resulting in simple yet rich poetic expressions of loving, living, and creating. His exploration of yoga in both New York and India demonstrated his deep sense of devotion and self-discipline. For over 40 years, he had a daily tai chi practice and continued meditating through his final breath.

As an artist, Larry sculpted countless lifelike busts, which have been exhibited in galleries throughout New York State. In the early 1970s, Larry sought out and found land in Andes, which fulfilled his longtime dream of living a simple life in the magical hills of the Catskill Mountains. Later, he and his wife, Karen, settled on Block Island, which became a second sanctuary for the family. On both unique properties, he hand-built post and beam houses that merged harmoniously with their natural surroundings.

Above all, family and friends formed the core of Larry’s life. He will be deeply missed and forever loved by his many friends and family members, for whom he will always be Baba, their dear and beloved stable rock of support. He is survived by his wife and love of his life, Karen Levey, her children, Brooke and Jessie Levey — who he raised as his own daughters — their husbands, Mark Humpert and George Swain; and his cherished grandchildren, Isabel and Elias Levey-Swain, and Noah, Sam, and Helen Humpert.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Block Island Medical Center or Hope Hospice and Palliative Care of Rhode Island.