Renée Levine, 95, of Asheville, NC, died peacefully in her home on November 2, 2020, surrounded by her loved ones. Born Renate Guttman in 1925 in Berlin, Germany, Renée was the daughter of Eric and Irene Guttman, both psychiatrists. The family fled Nazi Germany, emigrating first to England. Later, Renée and her younger brother, Robert, traveled alone to the United States on the last Liberty ship to live with their mother, who died of breast cancer shortly after they arrived.
Renée attended Smith College, married Robert Preyer in 1947, and raised their three daughters in Massachusetts. She was an early and feisty feminist, active in the progressive political causes of the 1960s. She proudly marched for civil rights in Boston and Washington, DC, for many years. In her fifties she received a master’s degree from Goddard College and worked at Lesley University in Cambridge. She also had a private therapy practice focusing on helping women re-enter the workforce.
In 1961, she married Harold Levine, a mathematician at Brandeis University. They travelled extensively in Europe and lived in France for 20 years during retirement. In 2010, they relocated to Asheville to be near family.
Renée was the consummate intellectual, well read and fluent in three languages until her final days. Though petite in stature, she was a force to be reckoned with. Never one to mince words, Renée was staunchly independent and delighted in challenging debates with old and new friends. She was a lifelong writer, contributing her final blog piece, titled “Choices,” to ourstoriestoday.com a few days before she died. She is also the author of How to Get a Job in Boston (or Anywhere Else) and One-Way Tickets, an autobiography.
Physical health was a lifelong priority for Renée. She loved preparing excellent food and taking long, brisk daily walks. She put great care into her appearance and clothing choices, as the shopkeepers in Asheville will attest.
Above all, Renée was a fiercely loyal friend and an unstoppable advocate for those she loved, including her devoted husband, Harold, as his dementia took hold during the past 10 years.
Renée is survived by Harold; her three daughters, Jill Preyer and Liz Preyer (Morris Letsinger) of Asheville and Sally Preyer LaVenture (Gery Geisser) of Louisville, CO; her four granddaughters, Heather Preyer Friedman, Rainy Preyer LaVenture, Willow Preyer LaVenture, and Melanie Wells Clayton; and seven great-grandchildren.
Services will be private. In lieu of flowers or gifts, Renée's family asks that memorial donations be made in her name to the CFWNC Women for Women Endowment Fund, 4 Vanderbilt Park Drive, Suite 300, Asheville, NC 28803 or https://cfwnc.org/initiatives/women-for-women.
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