Jack W. Lewis, of both Clifton Forge and Eagle Rock, Virginia, left this world on Friday, May 7, 2021, after 84 years of living life to the fullest. He was born on February 11, 1937, a date that he recently had embroidered on his hat when he couldnâ€™t remember it any longer because of his illnesses, so he could point to his hat when asked to state his birthday. Itâ€™s just one example of the problem-solving skills Jack brought to everything he did in life, right to the end.
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The youngest of six children born to Lindsay Lewis, a coal miner living in Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania, and Margaret McCormick Lewis, Jack developed a strong desire to be an engineer in his youth, but no one in his family had gone to college and he didnâ€™t know how to find the money to make it happen. And his high school guidance counselor discouraged him from pursuing that goal, telling him he didnâ€™t have what it takes. A fortuitous meeting with a high school classmate a year after graduation led him to take the test for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. He did well on the test and ended up at the service academy, despite knowing very little about the Coast Guard. All he knew was that it was a way to get a college education with no money. Jack excelled at the USCGA, graduating near the top of his class, and became a Coast Guard officer aboard ship. His excellent officer fitness reports led him to be selected to attend MIT, where he obtained two masterâ€™s degrees and the MIT engineerâ€™s degree, which required a year of study beyond the masterâ€™s degree and a research thesis.
Jack had successive and sometimes parallel careers as a Coast Guard officer, marine engineer, entrepreneur, corporate CEO, software developer, horse breeder/trainer, robot designer, author and, late in life, a registered nurse (at the age of 74), volunteer paramedic (age of 75), and washtub bass player in the Oriskany Strings oldtime string band, due to some arm-twisting by his wife Carol. He was a competent skier, sailor, horseman, canoeist, graphic designer/artist, carpenter, and an expert flyfisherman. He wrote numerous technical papers and articles, including national award-winning papers for engineering societies, as well as textbooks and engineering reference books. When he became ill and had to slow down a bit, he researched and wrote an award-winning novel, Storm Coming, based on his great-grandfather who joined the cavalry during the first year of the Civil War in western Virginia.
Jack was predeceased by his parents; his brothers George, Jim, and Tom; and his sisters Hazel and Eleanor. In addition to his wife Carol Surber Lewis, Jack is survived by his two sons Jason Lewis (Adam) and Jeffrey Lewis (Mariann); three grandchildren, Michael Russell (Michaela), Jennifer Lewis, and Zackary Lewis; three great-grandchildren; many beloved nieces and nephews; and many good friends. He wanted to especially thank his fishing buddy friends Bud and Bruce, and his dear friend Frank, for all the great memoriesâ€”love you, guys!â€”and to thank the wonderful people at Blue Ridge Cancer Care and the nurses on the fourth floor of LewisGale Hospital Alleghany for taking such good care of him.
An open-air memorial service will be held at King Memorial Church pavilion, Oriskany, Virginia on Saturday, June 5, at 2 pm.
Nicely Funeral Home, Clifton Forge is handling arrangements.