Leon E. Lewis, 74, beloved teacher, scholar, husband, father and brother, died March 26, 2003, at Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville after a brief battle with cancer. He was an artist in the classroom who used provocative wit and comic improvisations to illuminate his main passions: words and language.
Lee taught English for 40 years both at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He received his Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin in Madison where he met his wife of nearly 46 years, Patricia A. Keppel, a music teacher.
He was born in South Boston, Mass., Dec. 30, 1928, to Wilfred C. and Anna Joyce Lewis and was raised in Quincy, Mass. His father was a police officer in Quincy and his mother was a first generation Irish-American known in the family for her lively imagination. The oldest son in a family of three boys and four girls, Leon served in the U.S. Marine Corps and then used the G.I. Bill to attend Boston College where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. A charismatic teacher and friend who loved performing, he was essentially a private person who cared about the world of ideas. He loved his family, books, old cars, sailing, cooking, Big Band and Dixieland music, the comedy of Bob and Ray, fine cigars and a glass of Scotch after 5 p.m.
He supported non-violent causes and was philosophically opposed to most forms of athletic competition. An excellent writer, he was equally happy working on a home-repair project in his garage or reading a novel by a favorite author such as John Updike. “All knowledge is of interest to the wise man,” was a pet saying. His favorite pieces of music included Walter Huston’s version of “September Song,” Beethoven’s “Emperor” piano concerto and George Harrison’s “Isn’t it a Pity?”
He served as chairman of the English department at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he taught from 1965 until 1992. He retired from US-SP as chairman and associated dean of the education department. He also served on the school board in Stevens Point, Wis. After his retirement, he moved to Whidbey Island where he enjoyed from his bluff the spectacular view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He looked forward to his annual nautical adventures on a commercial fishing boat owned by hi friend Keith in Bellingham. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother.
Survivors include his wife and two sons: Matthew (Soon Har Tan) of Elmhurst, Ill, and Martin of Berkeley, Calif. He is also survived by three grandchildren whom he loved: Clara, 11, John, 7 and Gabriel, 4. A celebration of his life will be held from 4-7 p.m., Monday, April 14, at Sierra Country Club. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Friends of Oak Harbor Library, P.O. Box 1838, Oak Harbor WA 98277.