Leslie Gangl Howe | Credit: Howard Howe

Leslie Gangl Howe, 1957-2020

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Leslie Gangl Howe was deeply loved: by her husband, Howard Howe; her mother, Maria del Carmen Gangl; her brother Bob and his wife, Tamie; her sister, Stephanie; her brother Chris and his wife, Felicia; and her more than 20 nieces and nephews and by the hundreds of theater people ​— ​actors, technicians, designers, and directors, with whom she worked over an extraordinary 50-year career ​— ​and the thousands of audience members who had a chance to catch her breathtakingly brilliant performances.

When the standard of one’s work is consistently excellent, the irony is we take that standard for granted. We find ourselves declaring: “Oh yes, she’s always wonderful!” Leslie Gangl Howe’s collective fans, friends, and collaborators felt assured that every time she stepped onstage (or in front of a camera) she would provide a thoughtful, meaningful, often hilarious performance. All while gifting us with that dazzling smile.

Leslie’s extraordinary ability left audiences in tears and laughter, show after show, and she did it all with a sweetness of spirit and an unassuming dedication to the craft that was amazing to behold. For the woman inside the performer was the most remarkable. In the depth of her compassion for others, her kindness, her openness ​— ​she was a rock star.

Leslie was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her family moved to Santa Barbara to help with their grandparents’ motel ​— ​The De Anza, now the Coast Village Inn ​— ​when Leslie was 6 years old.

She attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel elementary school and La Cumbre Junior High and graduated from Santa Barbara High School. Leslie’s powerful work ethic started at an early age, when she cleaned motel rooms for her grandparents. After high school, she worked several years for Robinson’s Department Store. What followed were a series of “day jobs,” all of which allowed her to rehearse and act at night.

Leslie managed the men’s clothing store called Gable’s on State Street for a couple of years. Her passion for travel led her to working for Global Visions, a local importer, giving her the chance to travel around the Southwest for multiple trade shows.

In 1991, she had an opportunity to live in New York City, where she stayed for seven months, did a show in the Bronx, and enjoyed the big-city life. She loved that.

In 2014, she started working at Valle Verde, a senior living community. She was in the life enrichment department and loved her job and the residents, who loved her in return. This proved to be a place where she could use all the different skills she had learned over the years.

Over the course of her life, Leslie and Howard spent vacations in Europe, China, Mexico, and all over the western United States.

Leslie was a fixture of Santa Barbara theater, appearing with almost every company and on every stage, because she was exceedingly adept at saying “yes.” Leslie confirmed life every step of the way. And she made it look so appetizing we all wanted to say “yes,” with her and to her.

She always, and I mean every single time, took the high road. It was her nature to do the right thing, the generous thing. She carried with her at all times dignity, kindness, grace, and a deep caring for other people. So everyone fortunate enough to cross paths with her counted themselves as lucky.

The foundation of Leslie’s love, that never-ending supply of warmth she showed the world, surely flowed from the wellspring of her happy marriage to Howard Howe. That was her bedrock, for they were truly two parts of a whole and always one another’s best friend.

There is no question we will always remember her and be better for it. Her beautiful face with the twinkling eyes and that always-at-the-ready laugh. Indelible, iconic, forever in our hearts.

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