Joseph W. Lewis, Jr.
Businessman, father, community activist
Joe Lewis, a resident of the Mount San Antonio Gardens retirement community in Claremont, died peacefully on February 20, 2013. He was 94.
Mr. Lewis was born September 7, 1918 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania to Laura Belle Rigg Lewis and Joseph W. Lewis. In 1929, when Mr. Lewis was 10 years old, his family moved from Wilkinsburg to San Marino, California. He attended South Pasadena-San Marino High School and graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1941 with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering.
Mr. Lewis joined the US Navy during World War II, serving as an aviation electronic technician’s mate, second class. He spent most of his assignment in Corpus Christi, Texas and, upon returning to civilian life, married Anne Caroline Beech Lewis in 1943. The couple moved to San Marino, where they lived for 50 years, raising their 3 children, Joseph, John and Katharine.
Mr. Lewis’ business career spanned more than 60 years. He began as industrial relations manager for US Steel on the west coast and next was manager at Arnold O. Beckman, Inc. in South Pasadena. He moved on to serve as vice president and division manager at Beckman Instruments, Inc. in Fullerton and then owned and operated DBP Microwave, Inc. and DB Products, Inc. in Pasadena.
“As a businessman, he had unconditional love for his employees. He motivated his employees to respond to that love by performing,” his son Joseph said.
Mr. Lewis was active in an array of organizations, serving as scout master for a local Cub Scouts troop, as president of San Marino Rotary and of Community Chest and as alumni president of Caltech. He was also active in the Men’s Club of the San Marino Community Church, where he acted as an usher, a deacon and president of the elders.
“He never used foul language, ever,” Joseph said. “I think his peers would say he was a straight arrow.”
He was also politically involved, serving as president of the San Marino Board of Education and as vice mayor for the San Marino City Council. All of that volunteerism didn’t go unnoticed. In 1986, Mr. Lewis was named “Outstanding Citizen of San Marino.” In 1995, the San Marino Rotary Club selected Mr. and Mrs. Lewis as San Marino’s “Most Distinguished Couple” for their extraordinary service to their community.
Between his career and his civic engagements, Mr. Lewis was remarkably busy. He often took work home and his children have an indelible memory of their father sitting at the table, plugging away at an assignment and enjoying a cigar. He always made time for his kids, though, and was engaged in their activities.
“He was a great cheerleader for his children,” his son Joseph said. “Anytime any of us made an achievement, he celebrated it.”
In his spare time, Mr. Lewis enjoyed poring through scientific magazines, playing tennis and golfing at the San Gabriel Country Club, where he and his wife were members. The Lewises loved to see the world, too, and traveled all over Europe. Another of Mr. Lewis’ favorite pursuits was woodworking. He made many toys, large and small, including one particularly memorable creation: a large trailer that could fit 2 kids and be towed on the back of a tricycle.
Mr. Lewis had a tradition: Every time the family moved, he would make a scale model of their new home. Whenever he was working on one of his projects, he would take the opportunity to pass on to his children some of the engineering know-how he had acquired at Caltech.
In 1995, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis moved to Mt. San Antonio Gardens in Claremont, which was his final residence. He will be sorely missed, his family shared.
“He made his mark in the business world big-time, but his biggest attribute was kindness,” Joseph said.
Mr. Lewis is survived by his beloved wife of 70 years, Anne Caroline Beech Lewis; by his 3 children, Joseph Walters Lewis, III of Shoreline, Washington, John Rigg Lewis of Los Alamitos, California, and Katharine Anne Lewis of Rancho Santa Fe, California; and by 5 grandchildren, Jonathan David Lewis of Lake Forest Park, Washington, Aaron Christopher Lewis of Seattle, Washington, Michael James Lewis of Auburn, Washington, Joseph William Lewis of Berkeley, California, and Susan Elaine Lewis of Los Angeles, California. He also leaves 3 great-grandchildren, James Butler Lewis of Lake Forest Park, Washington, Mark Butler Lewis of Lake Forest Park, Washington and Samantha McKenzie Lewis of Auburn, Washington.
According to Mr. Lewis’ wishes, people may contribute, in memory of Joseph W. Lewis, Jr., to the Caltech Athenaeum Preservation Fund, 551 S. Hill Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106; or to the Caltech Alumni Fund, 1200 E. California Blvd., M-Code 5-32, Pasadena, CA 91125.