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Louis Lewis obituary: Forever, a McKinley High Goldbug

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 19, 2008 - "Lou Lewis, class of '53, passed away this morning." That was the first comment on the message board of the McKinley High School website, mckinleygoldbugs.com, on Mon. morning, Dec. 8. Mary, a member of the McKinley High School class of 1964, posted the message.

Louis "Butch" Lewis would have liked the message board announcement because mckinleygoldbugs.com was his creation. He built the website, named after his high school alma mater's nickname, to help McKinley graduates keep in touch and to come together to do community service. He maintained the site until September, three months before brain cancer took his life. Mr. Lewis was 72.

Mr. Lewis, a native St. Louisan, graduated from the Missouri School of Mines (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology) in 1960 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

In his early career, Mr. Lewis worked in St. Louis for Hydro-Air, a manufacturer of plates for roof trusses, as a sales manager and as the company pilot. One day, he stumbled upon an old, abandoned computer and decided to teach himself how to use it. He learned quickly.

While the connection between mechanical engineering and computers isn't obvious, Mr. Lewis' wife, Patti Zimmer Lewis, says computers were a natural for him.

"Of course, computers weren't around when Lou graduated," laughed Patti Lewis, who is 19 years Mr. Lewis' junior, "but his educational background gave him the logical intellect to work with computers. And that's just the way he always thought, too: logically."

He taught himself so well that his computer skills eventually led to a teaching position. For 17 years, until his retirement in 2005, Mr. Lewis was an adjunct professor of computer science at Webster University. For five years during this period, he also worked for Trendstat Capital Management.

Mr. Lewis traveled extensively and was said to have "a friend at every destination." He had visited every state in the U.S. except North Dakota. His favorite travel destinations were Spanish-speaking countries: Argentina, Chile, Venezuela. That's because he was passionate about the Spanish culture and spoke the language fluently. As a young man, he took an immersion class and lived for a month in Mexico with a family who spoke no English. Throughout his life, he never missed an opportunity to read and speak Spanish and was rewarded for his efforts by receiving the ultimate compliment from indigenous people: "You speak Spanish like a native!"

Mr. Lewis will travel once more. His ashes, and the ashes of his beloved Siberian Husky, Rusty, will be scattered on Eagle Lake in Ontario, Canada, a setting "straight from 'On Golden Pond'," Patti Lewis said.

"Rusty just moved into our lives and our hearts. We had him for 13 1/2 years before we had to put him to sleep last year, and he and Lou -- what a couple they made. To see the two walking together was pure bliss. I'm going to have a little ceremony at the Lake this summer. Lou and I talked about it."

The two talked about everything; they had been together for 25 years. But they were relatively newlyweds.

"Nov. 25 was our second anniversary," Patti Lewis said. "But we'd been together since I returned some videotapes I'd borrowed from Lou that I'd kept for two years. I found them during a move and I was almost afraid to give them back. But I'm glad I did!"

The man with two first names loved Cardinals baseball - but not the new stadium so much; after all, he grew up with Sportsman's Park -- playing tennis and reading Mark Twain, Jack London, Pablo Neruda, Oscar Wilde and Hemingway.

When he could no longer play tennis, he devoted himself to the Goldbug website. In the end, computing wasn't just his job, it was his love and his legacy. "No one has done more for the Goldbugs than Lou," said Don, Class of '58, posting on the Goldbug website on Dec. 9, "and no one enjoyed it more in the doing."

In addition to his wife Patti, of Manchester, Mr. Lewis is survived by his brothers Larry (Lonnie) Lewis, Tulsa, Okla., and Mike Lewis and his wife Sue of New Castle, Pa., and his sister Brenda Randolph Wenner of south St. Louis County. He was the son of the late Harry M. Lewis and Marcella (Azar) Randolph.

A memorial service to celebrate Mr. Lewis' life will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Royale Orleans Banquet Center, 2801 Telegraph Road. A lunch buffet will follow the service.

The Lewis family would appreciate any donations made in honor of Mr. Lewis to deGreeff Hospice House, c/o Charitable Contributions, 10016 Kennerly Road, St. Louis, MO 63128.

Friends may sign the online guest book at legacy.com, a service of Kutis South County Funeral Home, or leave a comment on the message board at www.mckinleygoldbugs.com.

Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter forAfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service. 

Gloria S. Ross is the head of Okara Communications and AfterWords, an obituary-writing and design service.