Howard Lehrer  Family photo

Howard Lehrer, a respected therapist who operated Counseling Services of Scarborough, died Dec. 27 from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19. He was 78.

Mr. Lehrer was remembered by his family this week as a kind, loving and intelligent guy who lived life to its fullest.

He began his career as a licensed marriage and family therapist in the early 1970s. He worked at several health facilities including Catholic Charities, Community Counseling Center, Maine Medical Center and Southern Maine Medical Center. In 1985, he started a private practice, Counseling Services of Scarborough. He developed a specialty in anger management and offered workshops throughout the state.

His wife, Ellen Lehrer of Saco, said Monday that he had a great reputation and loved making a difference in people’s lives.

“The more he could affect someone’s life, the happier he was,” his wife said. “He loved working with people and being able to help them find clarity and solutions. He just loved that.”

Mr. Lehrer and his wife were married for 47 years. They lived in Scarborough before moving to Saco about six years ago. She reflected on their life together, noting their shared passions for traveling, exercise and living well. She said they enjoyed skiing, snowshoeing and kayaking.

One of their greatest passions was walking and they regularly walked to Old Orchard Beach, she said, and also took walks to Portland. His wife said they would have a cup of coffee before walking home, logging about 16 miles in all. She said it gave them plenty of time to talk about life, their goals and plans for the future.

“That was a real intense hobby of ours,” she said. “It was great. We were in great shape. He exercised and ate healthy. It’s hard to believe after all that, he got Lewy body dementia.”

She reminisced about walking on the beach. Their dog often walked with them.

“I miss him so much. I’ll miss walking with him and holding his hand,” she said. “We would go every morning for a short walk on the beach. That allowed us to see, smell and feel the change of the seasons. It was an incredible experience … to be outdoors and walk at low tide. It was amazing.”

Mr. Lehrer had a passion for travel and adventure. His wife expressed gratitude for the time they spent skiing out West and exploring other countries. She said they traveled to the Soviet Union, Germany, Spain, Norway, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

“He loved the freedom of traveling,” his wife said.

Mr. Lehrer was a loving father of two daughters from his previous marriage. His wife said he was a fun dad and liked going on vacations, skiing and bike riding with them.

“He loved his kids so much,” she said.

Mr. Lehrer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005. Two years later, he was re-diagnosed with Lewy body dementia.

“He was an incredible specimen of a man, who was strong and healthy … There was never anything wrong with him. All of the sudden, his hands started shaking and then his leg went numb,” his wife recalled. “He couldn’t exercise, although he tried. He couldn’t bike ride the way he loved. Slowly but surely, he got worse. He couldn’t do anything anymore. He started slowly, slowly disappearing until one day, he couldn’t tell time. That was the beginning of the end.”

Mr. Lehrer retired around 2014 due to his illness. Three years ago, he moved to Seal Rock Healthcare Facility in Saco. On Dec. 17, he tested positive for COVID-19.

“The worst part of it … the thing that breaks my heart is that I couldn’t see him,” his wife said. “Once he went into the nursing facility, I saw him every day. I called him every night. I was incredibly dedicated to providing him comfort. When he was diagnosed with COVID, they took him right to the COVID unit and I never had a chance to talk with him. After that, I never saw him. I worried so much that he thought that I wasn’t there for him. That was very upsetting to me.”

The day before Mr. Lehrer died, a hospice nurse set up a FaceTime call so his wife and children could say goodbye.

“At one point, we were saying how much we loved him,” his wife recalled. “We told him he wasn’t alone. He opened his eyes, and he lifted this head. It was incredible.

“Then, he put his head down and died a few hours later. What I need to believe is that he recognized our voices and realized we were there. I think he thought we were there. For me, that made all the difference in the world. I get really teary thinking about that.

“The finality of him dying is hitting me harder than I expected,” his wife added. “I just miss him so much. I miss him. His kids miss him. His grandkids have been cheated out of so many years with him.”

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