John Dowley “Jack” Lewis


John Dowley Lewis died Dec. 6, 2015, at St. John’s on the Lake, Milwaukee, Wis. He was 88.

Born in Evanston, Ill., Jack lived in Milwaukee, Wis., spent winters in Tucson, Ariz., and summers on Martha’s Vineyard where his family has been vacationing since the early 1900’s when his grandfather, George B. Dowley bought a home on East Chop.  His brother, Ted Lewis still owns the family home.

Jack graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., and Princeton University in New Jersey with a degree in mechanical engineering. He served in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II, and was on one of the first ships at Bikini Atoll for the testing of the atomic bomb.

Jack started his career working for Owens Corning Fiberglass in Toledo, Ohio. He learned the foundry business working for Campbell Wyatt & Cannon in Muskegon, Mich., before becoming a manufacturer’s representative and starting his own sales business, Lewis Sales Co., selling industrial machinery and chrome plating. Later, he owned Southern Plating and Wisconsin Chromium.

Jack was a lifelong member of Rotary Club of Milwaukee; he was a founding member of the Rotary Club in South Haven, Mich.; he co-chaired the first two Lake Front Festivals of the Arts in 1964 and 1965 at the Milwaukee Art Museum; served on the board and then as chairman of the Board of Piney Woods Country Life School in Jackson, Miss., a boarding school for African-American children founded in 1909 to prepare students for careers and college. Jack was on the board of directors for Riveredge Nature Center, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and the Milwaukee Chamber Theater. He also sang in his church choir and with the Bel Canto Chorus.

Jack’s greatest passion was mountaineering. His was the first ascent of Brussels Peak in Canada, and one of the first winter climbs of the Grand Teton with Paul Petzold, a renowned climber and founder of National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). He was a climbing guide in the Tetons during the his college summers. Jack also enjoyed hiking, tennis, squash, sailing, snorkeling, skiing, and enjoying nature, making sculptures from found natural objects, and traveling in the U.S. and worldwide.

In 1986, Jack and his wife Phoebe bought a home in West Tisbury.  In 2006, they moved to Vineyard Haven. Jack was very fond of the Vineyard and his many relatives and friends on the Island.  He was a long time member of the East Chop Tennis Club.

He is survived by loving wife of 65 years, Phoebe Reese Lewis, five children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren: Lloyd Lewis (Patrick) Eagan of Madison, Wis., and their sons, Gavin and Brendan (Kinnic) Eagan, and great-grandchildren, Aidan and Juniper Quynh Eagan. Thekla Lewis (John) Metz of Evanston, Ill., and their daughters, Phoebe and Miranda Metz. Meredith Lewis (Tom) Degen of Madison, Wis., and their children, George, Thekla, Eleanor, and Henry Degen. Graham (Elizabeth Powell) Lewis of Chicago, Ill., and their sons, Brynn and Rhys Lewis. Bradley (Kristen) Lewis of Belmont, and their children, Everett and Lynn Lewis. He is also survived by his sister Barbara Lewis Howell of Vineyard Haven, and brother Albert Theodore “Ted” Lewis and his wife Anne Heuer Lewis of Glenview, Ill, and by other relatives and many friends. He was preceded in death by father Dunbar Lewis and mother Gladys Dowley Lewis of Glencoe, Ill.

A memorial service is scheduled for Dec. 21 at 4 pm at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1100 N. Astor St., Milwaukee, WI 53202. Memorials can be made to Martha’s Vineyard Museum.