Phoebe Reese Lewis


Phoebe Reese Lewis, 94, of Milwaukee, Wis., died on Jan. 26, 2024, at St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee.

Born on August 6, 1929, to Everett David Reese and Martha Grace (Gay) Reese in Newark, Ohio, Phoebe lived in Milwaukee, spent winters in Tucson, Ariz., and summers on Martha’s Vineyard, in family homes on East Chop and in Vineyard Haven. 

Phoebe attended the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., for secondary school, and Smith College in Northampton, graduating in 1951 with a B.A. in English literature.

She married John Dowley (“Jack”) Lewis on Nov. 25, 1950, in Newark, Ohio. Their wedding day coincided with tThe Great Appalachian Storm of 1950. This remarkable event is still on record as the worst snowstorm ever in the Ohio River Valley, and is No. 9 in the entire Northeastern U.S. As much as 62 inches of snow fell in some places. This made Phoebe and Jack’s wedding a memorable one — wedding guests were stuck all over the place on their way to the wedding, and the happy couple never got a honeymoon. Luckily, this dramatic start led to a long and happy marriage!

Phoebe was active in many civic organizations in Milwaukee. While serving as a trustee of the Milwaukee Art Museum, she organized its first development committee and, with Jack, started a travel program for the Friends of Art. She served on the board of trustees of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater (2017–22), and served on the boards of Ten Chimneys and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center. Phoebe was active in the local American Field Service (AFS) chapter and hosted two exchange students, one from Italy and one from Denmark. Phoebe also hosted two other yearlong international visitors, one from Japan and one from Austria. In each case, lasting friendships were established. On Martha’s Vineyard, Phoebe served on the board of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. In Tucson, she volunteered for the Humanities Program, where she also took classes.

Beyond any of her civic work, Phoebe was an enthusiastic supporter of Smith College over the years. She joined the board of the Alumnae Association in 1978, and served as president of the Alumnae Association from 1983 to ’86. Phoebe co-directed the Smith College Travel Program from 1979 to 1983 and 1986 to 1989. She became a member of the board of trustees from 1983 to 1989, and chair of trustees from 1989 to 1994. In 1996, Smith College honored Phoebe with the John M. Greene Award for her years of service to the college.

Phoebe was a lifelong learner. She had a passion for travel, and had been all over the world. She worked as a travel agent for Odyssey International in Milwaukee, and later for Smith College where she conducted more than 40 trips, visiting every continent but Antarctica. She was even in Egypt for the Arab Spring. Phoebe was a talented writer, writing poetry, sketches, and other short pieces. She was a voracious reader, with wide-ranging interests. She also enjoyed walking, tennis, and paddle tennis.

Phoebe was preceded in death by her loving husband of 65 years, John Dowley (“Jack”) Lewis. She is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, Lloyd Lewis (Patrick) Eagan of Madison, Wis., and their sons, Gavin and Brendan (Kinnic) Eagan, and great-grandchildren, Aidan, Juniper, and Linh Eagan; Thekla Lewis (John) Metz of Evanston, Ill., and their daughters, Phoebe and Miranda Metz; Meredith Lewis (Tom) Degen of Madison, and their children, George Degen, Thekla (Rina) Min, Eleanor and Henry Degen; Graham (Elizabeth Powell) Lewis of Martha’s Vineyard and Chicago, Ill., and their sons Brynn and Rhys Lewis; Bradley (Kristen) Lewis of Belmont, and their children, Everett and Lynn Lewis. Phoebe was preceded in death by brother John Gilbert Reese of Islamorada, Fla., and is survived by sister-in-law Louella Reese of Islamorada, her sister Thekla (Don) Shackelford of Gahanna, Ohop, and her brother David (Louise) Reese of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; and by other relatives and many friends.

A memorial service is planned for March 2 at 2 pm at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1100 North Astor St., Milwaukee, Wis., 53202. Memorial donations can be directed to any of the organizations Phoebe held dear.