Darwin Eugene Lewis
An amazing man has left this earth. Gene Lewis died June 22, 2021 at the age of 91 ½. Part of the miracle of this man is that he reached such an advanced age while surviving the rigors of Type One Diabetes since the age of 19. He was a masterful Bridge player who played his last game three days before his death.
Gene was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on December 12, 1929 to Emily Houdek and Charles Ishom Lewis. Gene grew up on a farm with extended family that immigrated to Kansas from Czechoslovakia, and since English was rarely spoken, Gene spoke only Czech when he entered first grade in a one-room schoolhouse. Frustrated with his lack of English, he cursed in Czech, only to learn that his teacher was Czech! While in high school, he trapped animals and sold the fur to make spending money. When Gene graduated in a class of 11 from Agenda Rural High School near Cuba, Kansas, he took a train to Kansas University, applied for admittance, and spent the next five years working several jobs to support his Chemical Engineering degree. After graduating, Gene took his first airplane rides to interviews and accepted a job at Monsanto Chemical Company in St. Louis. MO. There he met and married Patricia McDuffee and together they had three wonderful children, although that relationship later ended in divorce.
During his career working with petroleum additives, Gene traveled often to other parts of the world, including Belgium, Argentina, and England. He studied Japanese and spent six months starting up a chemical plant in Japan. He loved Japan and the people he worked with, and for decades after the trip, received Christmas cards referring to him as “sensei,” which means teacher in Japanese. He attended Washington University and received his MBA while working full-time. After a long, satisfying career in petroleum additives, which included working for companies such as Edwin Cooper and Ethyl, Gene retired to pursue golf and travel for recreation.
Seven years after the end of his first marriage, Gene met the love of his life, Margaret (Peggy) Hapke, and the two recently celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary. She was drawn to his marvelous sense of humor. The first night they met at a Social Singles dance, he introduced himself as a counterfeiter. When another couple joined them, she pretended he was her husband and he went along with it. Gene’s passions were his family and sports. His devotion to the KU Jayhawks was legendary. He also followed all the St. Louis teams, including the baseball Cardinals, the Blues, and The St. Louis Rams (before they left town). Gene knew that balancing exercise, food and insulin was vital to his staying alive, and he ran many miles per week until his late 70’s when he was forced to walk. He was a man of fine character and integrity, a true gentleman and a humble soul.
Left to cherish his memory are his wife Peggy, children Melinda Harris (Dean) and Darcie Lewis (Eric Winicov), stepchildren Rob and Kit Maxwell, and grandchildren Lindsey Harris and Kristen Harris Cain (Grant), Harper and Meryl Winicov, Brooks, Timmy and Danielle Maxwell, and Alec, Ben and Amy Schmiemeier. His mother Emily Plucar, sister Sharon Nelson (Jim), and son Scott Lewis preceded him in death. Among the many friends and relatives who mourn the passing of this wonderful man is Ray Salmon of Salina Kansas, who remained Gene’s close friend for the rest of his life after they met in middle school. The family will celebrate Gene’s life in the near future, and contributions in honor of Gene can be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, JDRF.org.