|EULOGY TO LOU LEWIS - by Les Goodman|
Lou Lewis was born May 23, 1936. He was married to Patti Zimmer Lewis. His parents were Marcella Lewis Randolph nee Azar and Harry McCarty Lewis. Vern Randolph was his stepfather. Lawrence (Lonnie) Lewis, Mike Lewis and Brenda Randolph Wenner are his siblings. We are sorry for their loss - and we are sorry for our loss.
Jack London, one of Lou’s favorite authors said, “Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is reverse gear?” Though he enjoyed looking toward the future, and as an engineer and teacher, helped to design the future, Lou relished some memories of growing up.
In recent years, when walking from parking spots in his old neighborhood to the baseball stadium, Lou would point out places where he roamed as a kid: where an old mom and pop store used to be, where he played ball on the asphalt of his grade school (Madison) on 7th Street, with the Ave Maria Shrine as backstop. As our mutual friend, Ed Miller, used to say, we were city kids, alley raised and proud of it. And what better place than an alley to play bottle caps or cadge a sliver of ice from the ice man, or take the kitchen knives to Tony the push-cart sharpener, and alert the house when a vegetable peddler was coming.
Brother Lonnie said you wouldn’t want to do anything in the neighborhood that you didn’t want your parents to find out about. The neighborhood was like a village. If anything untoward happened, everyone, including Mom and Dad, would know about it quickly. This part of South St. Louis remained important to Lou. St. Raymond’s provided enduring social contacts for Lou and his family.
Neighbors had a wide variety of experiences to share. Some streets housed families that had been in this country as far back as the oldest member could remember. Others were first or second generation immigrants who made up a United Nations of nationalities, races and religions. It was a revelation and wonderful introduction to a wide variety of languages and ethnic customs to those children who wanted to learn.
Within 5 miles or so of home there was a sense of relative safety. As Lou grew older, this radius grew because streetcars could take you miles from home. Even to Grand & Dodier; to Sportsman’s Park, where he could see those Browns and Cardinals players in the flesh. Games that he listened to on the radio took on a new dimension and created a permanent passion for baseball. This was a happy confluence because baseball is a game of statistics and stats were grist for Lou’s mental mill. He would readily quote batting averages and the whole diamond alphabet: rbi, era, and most important of all, explain the importance of on-base percentage. If you went to a ball game with Lou, he wanted to know that you were a serious fam and not there just to work on your tan.
Was it at Madison School that he learned to love books, or did it come later at McKinley? Another of Lou’s favorite authors, Pablo Naruda, the Nobel laureate, wrote “The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book, that comes from a great thinker, is a ship of thought; deep freighted with truth and beauty.”
As a kid, when he had questions to be answered, he would seek solutions at the library. As he grew older, his personal library became increasingly larger, until today, Patti can verify, they fill every spare foot of space. Where did this love of learning come from. Maybe some of it was genetic. His grandfather, Lawrence, was a master chess and checker player. Once, in Chicago, he played 12 simultaneous games of chess while blindfolded.
McKinley High School (now McKinley Classical Leadership Academy) provided the opportunity for Lou to make lifelong friends of both classmates and faculty. He excelled at McKinley and will always be known for that Goldbug spirit. He relished the unique identity McKinley enjoys as having one of the country’s best alumni associations. In 2004 he served as President of the McKinley Centennial Committee. This was a job that involved dealing with hundreds of people including mayors, senators and congressmen. He designed and maintained a professional grade website for the alumni. He was the nexus, that connects us - the center of a far-flung information network.
After graduating McKinley in 3-1/2 years, Lou enrolled at Missouri University School of Mining and Metallurgy. Although he had a challenging study load, he found time to make a few dollars and have some fun, as a drummer in a campus jazz band. He would also go to St. Louis in those years to play in a combo, backing the singer/pianist, Connie Morrison. When back in St. Louis on weekend breaks from college, casual reunions took place at the corner of California and Russell, where old classmates and friends would catch up, trade stories, hang out in the Dinner Bell Restaurant or the Well #2 - also dubbed “The Hanger.” A few years later, friends might occasionally gather at Bevo Mill, where long time friend Tony Andonoff was the affable Maitre D’. These evenings, which included some engaging conversations, would often stretch into the next morning.
During college, Lou took time off to raise some cash and work at the Chevrolet plant in St. Louis. His job was to take one fender in each hand and walk them to the assemblers abut 100 yards away. Hard work, done all day, every day. When one of the old hands on the line asked if Lou thought he might like to be a automaker at Chevy, Lou’s reply was, if he worked for Chevrolet, it would be to design the cars, not to carry their parts.
After graduating Rolla, Lou worked at Molenpah Engineering, also known as Hydro-Air on Vandeventer Avenue in St. Louis. By this time, he had learned to fly light aircraft and served as their corporate pilot. As part of this job, he was able to log necessary flight time to maintain his license, and also to share rides to fun places with family and friends, at no extra expense to the company.
While at Hydro-Air, Lou found an old, unused computer stored in a closet and started tinkering with it. He gathered all the library and periodical information he could on computers and taught himself not only how to operate them, but how to repair, design, build and write programs for them. Other than a few classes on an irregular basis, Lou mastered computer sciences on his own and never had a degree in the subject. This knowledge led him to other professions with other companies. Another favorite author, Mark Twain, said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”
Before there were computer programs on the subject and before that was a CNBC where you see real time stock trades and prices, Lou thought there might be a way to predict stock price trends, where one could anticipate fluctuations in the market, and thereby make informed purchases that would net profits. In those days, the only way to gather these trending numbers was to look at daily trades which at that time were recorded on micro-fiche and available at the library. That is what Lou did, laboriously, with some success for hours on end. Only much later, using his computer skills, did he manage some programs that could speed the work. He also partnered in developing a company named Decision Sciences. As a consultant to corporations like FedEx and Fiat Motors, Lou used a Range Estimating Program to help predict the success or possible pitfalls of business models. While developing Stock Market investment strategies, he was teaching computer classes at Webster University. This pursuit led to an adjunct professorship at Webster.
In teaching, he was puzzled and dismayed by those few who would take up space in class, make little or no effort and expect to pass the course “just for showing up.” Given his own work ethic and personal appetite for learning, he couldn’t help by express his dismay. Once again citing Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Conversely, it gave him no greater joy than to give extra help to students who not only showed promise, but demonstrated the desire to learn and succeed. He became not only a mentor to some of these students, but a friend who understood what it was like for some of them to be thousands of miles from home, in a foreign country. Students from as far-flung places as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, Argentina and Italy looked on Lou as family, some referring to him as “Uncle” or “Tio” Lou. He studied Spanish most of his life and was fluent; not only speaking, but also writing and reading his favorite authors: Federico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Naruda.
Earlier in life, he traveled to Cuerna Vaca, Mexico, where he lived with a Mexican family. This was total immersion. Only Spanish was spoken. He learned well. He also easily blended with an informal Spanish conversation group at Webster, comprised of students and some faculty as well. This was also an opportunity to exchange information about their various cultures. Here again, long friendships developed.
Having developed as an engineer and a practical thinker had some drawbacks. For example, years ago he gave Donna Campbell, a lady with whom, at the time, he shared an affectionate relationship, a weed-whacker for her birthday.
Patti Lewis has received on different birthdays, automobile tires and a vacuum cleaner. Very practical, but perhaps not quite the thing. One year, on a special occasion, Lou gave Patti a present in a huge box. Her guessing proved fruitless. Digging through the wrappings revealed, at last ... a baseball glove. Patti was puzzled, and even though he already knew it, she informed him that she did not, and had never, played baseball. His reply was pure Lou Lewis. He said that at some time in their life, everyone ought to own a baseball glove. To him, the logic in this was self-evident. The glove got a workout. Patti and Lou would go out and play catch, to the point where Patti can now throw a burning, overhand fastball. A real palm-stinger!
Work did not consume all his time. He loved tennis and like everything else, he studied it on the courts and in the books until he got very good; to the point where he could help others improve their games. As a youth, Lou also loved water skiing and partnered in a speed boat to get in more water time.
He was attracted to motorcycles and bought a Honda from Dave Mungenast when Dave was on Gravois near Loughborough. This was before there were Honda automobiles in America. Dave and Lou became friends.
Craig Meyer and Lou would ride two-lane blacktop all over Missouri and Illinois and later, by himself, Lou rode his bike on blue highways all the way to California. His good friend, Jim Bright, settled comfortably in California, showed Lou the left coast’s soft focus lifestyle and shared his enthusiasm for Highway 1, the central coast, from Monterey past Big Sur and farther south. A cycle rider’s dream.
Jack London wrote, “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to life, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.
Lou also traveled by conventional methods; to every state in the Union except North Dakota. To Europe, of course, including Spain; to Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and with Patti to South America where they attended the wedding of friends they made at Webster U. A love of photography dovetailed very well with travel, and delighted those with whom he shared the photos; both film and later, digital. Enthusiasm brought five cameras in five years.
With Patti in Anchorage, Alaska, visiting his cousin Mike and his wife, Lou got to fly Mike’s single engine aircraft, which carried the two couples out over the mountains, where discernable landmarks are few and far between. While flying over a remote area, a weather front started to overtake them and luckily, they landed in an unlikely place just before a fierce storm hit. It wasn’t until they were on the ground and safe that the gravity of the situation hit home.
In his book, “The Call of the Wild,” Jack London wrote, “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”
Lou’s reaction to the news that he had cancer triggered a typical reaction. He did research about the disease and digested every bit of news and information pertaining to his illness. On more than one occasion he would engage doctors in discussions about the efficacy of his on-going treatment and considered going to the MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas where he thought the most advanced work was being done. He later became convinced, however that BJC had adopted these latest methods and in fact, with the help of care providers and the devotion of his wife, Patti, Lou lived longer than the most optimistic estimates.
Lou said he was a spiritual person, if not a religious one and as a Christian, found comfort in faith. Discussions with ministers like Dave Martin brought some solace in his daily battle with cancer.
Kalil Gibran, the artist, author and poet was born in Bsharri, in Northern Lebanon. He was an immigrant in America. Excerpted from a poem in his book, “The Prophet” are these thoughts: “In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling? For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall CLAIM your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
A great pleasure in the lives of Patti and Lou was Rusty, their Husky dog. With his typical studied approach, Lou learned about training dogs and proceeded to turn Rusty from a rambunctious puppy into an intelligent disciplined companion. Rusty is gone now, but he had a good life, and enthusiastically returned the affection he was given.
Lou’s favorite wilderness place was Eagle Lake which is in beautiful, rugged country, north of Kingston, Ontario Canada. It is here where Lou’s and Rusty’s ashes will be scattered. Returned to the elements.
Lou Lewis passed away at 10:30 am on Monday, December 8, 2008. He said his journey had been meaningful and that he had experienced life to the fullest extent. We join Jack London in thinking, “Darn the wheel of the world.” Friends and family think Lou has been taken from us much too soon.
Do not judge a song by its duration,