Harvey L. Lewis, Jr. - His Life
Harvey had a secret that removed him from the realm of us ordinary people. I think you should know of it. His secret was shared only by those who were intimate with him. He had an incurable physical condition. He lived under a death sentence. He knew that no one having his condition had ever lived to the age of 40. He had only a few scant years to provide security for his wife and his children. Only a short time to serve his God and his fellow men. With characteristic humor and zeal he turned from school to life, and to his years of great accomplishment. For years he lived with pain and weakness, without a murmur of complaint. Many who thought they knew him well had no inkling whatever of the battle he fought to stay alive. Harvey Lewis accomplished more in his 39 years than most of our leaders accomplish in their three score years and ten.
He started the Lewis Mortuary, at a time when other mortuaries were going bankrupt. He was not deterred by our worldwide depression. He gathered a staff of devoted, capable people around him. He saw to it that his mortuary succeeded. Then he acquired a larger site, and built upon it one of the loveliest buildings in our city. He was active in his professional circles. He was a leader there, as always. Before long he was appointed by Governor Warren to the State Board of Funeral Directors. He served on the board until his death, and was twice its president. His standing among his colleagues and his competitors was second to none in California.
He loved music, and became an outstanding organist. He could have had a successful career as a professional musician. He assisted with music at several churches, and was music director at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church for 16 years. A characteristic sidelight was his purchase of a lovely grand piano while he was a student at Hoover High School. He paid for it by giving music lessons, and it remained one of his most cherished possessions all of his days.
Harvey Lewis was a devout Christian, active in the leadership of his own church. He was an effective worker in many community interfaith activities. He was a supporter of the San Diego Council of Churches. He had the courage of his convictions. When he saw entertainment, for example, which violated his standards of morality, he spoke up. He worked until the evils were removed. He had a spiritual quality in all of his relationships, which is rare in these modern days.
Harvey Lewis was an active community leader, assisting in a great many betterment activities. He worked with the Y.M.C.A., assisting in the establishment of the Copley Y branch. He helped build the Boys’ Clubs. He was a leader in his service club, in the El Cajon Boulevard Association, in his Masonic Lodge, and in the Community Chest. One wonders how he could do so much in in so short a time.
Harvey Lewis was a member of the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District from 1945 until his death in 1956. He had been out of high school only 11 years when first elected. He was re-elected by vast majorities. He was twice elected president of the Board of Education. We in the schools knew him as a tireless, energetic, humorous, helpful leader for the betterment of education. He could be critical. He did his own thinking. He was not a “yes” man. He was entirely unselfish. He was uniformly loved by the teachers and the others who knew him as a Board of Education member.
Harvey Lewis, Jr. was a wonderful husband and father. He cherished his wife, Marion, and his three children, Harvene, Mary Ann and Paul. Cherished them as only a man who knows his days are limited can cherish his loved ones. He was a wonderful son. His relationships with his father were closer than the relationships of any other father and son I know. They had fun together. They loved each other. They had complete confidence in each other. They depended on each other. If you know Harvey Lewis, Sr., you know where Harvey Lewis, Jr. got his sparkle and devotion.
Harvey Lewis, Jr. died on March 12, 1956, just four days before his 40th birthday. He had known for many months that death was near. He worked patiently through the last days of his life to leave everything in order, tying together the many strands of his varied life. He worked clear to the end with rare insight, and rare acceptance of reality. He died at peace with his God, and at peace with the world. His many missions were accomplished.
It is fitting that this wonderful school should be named for him. His life can serve as an inspiration to every child who will attend Lewis Middle School. We are grateful to Harvey Lewis, Jr. business leader, musician, church leader, civic leader, educator and family man.