Eulogy for Richard (Dick) Lewton
December 12, 2016
by Rev. John Partridge
In a way, this isn’t new. Almost all of us have experienced loss before. Most of us know what it is to lose people, friends, and family that we love. But in many ways, this is different. Richard (Dick) Lewton was a different sort of a man than many of the people we know and so losing him is an entirely different sort of a loss. Regardless of who you are, and regardless of how you knew Dick, we have all lost something of great value. Dick was one of the people that, regardless of whether we were family, or friends, or employers, or employees, or church family, or something else, Dick was on the incredibly short list of people that we knew, that no matter what happened, we could rely upon to keep his word, and to get things done. But before we go too far in that direction, let’s go back to the beginning.
Dick was born on February of 1929 in Lisbon, Ohio and lived there until he was about 12 years old. That was just long enough for him to pick up a few mannerisms and unique speech habits that although they may not, technically, have come from Lisbon, that’s where the blame has typically fallen. And so, at the age of 12 his parents moved from Lisbon to Perry Township. To make a little money, Dick became a paperboy, and curiously, one of the houses on his route was the home of Wanda and her parents. Nothing really happened at that point, except we know that is the earliest that Dick and Wanda knew one another.
A few years later, after Dick had graduated from Lincoln High School and was about 20, his brother Ralph had returned home from his time of military service, Ralph asked Dick to be the best man in his wedding. As it happened, Ralph was marrying Wanda’s sister, and Mary asked her to be her maid of honor. Now before you go and think that this is some kind of fairy tale thing, Wanda clearly remembers asking her mother, “Do I have to spend the whole day with him?” She was none too excited about the possibilities. But, she told me, as the day wore on she discovered that this guy was actually pretty nice. Three years after that, Dick and Wanda were married, at Trinity church, and bought a house together, and it was only then that Dick got drafted and left for the Korean Conflict. He was gone for almost two years. Oh, there’s something else I should mention, when Dick left for Korea he left a little something behind and Ron was born not long after he left. As it happened, the Red Cross failed to notify him, and he only found out about the birth of his son from a letter from one of his relatives. By the time Dick came home and got to meet his son, Ron was already 13 or 14 months old.
As I met with Dick’s family, his children told me that they never, in their entire lives, saw Dick and Wanda fight. Of course, they are sure that there must have been the occasional disagreement between them, but if they did, it never happened in front of the kids. In fact, their children told me that they could never remember a time when Dick even got particularly upset with them, although to be fair, Wanda admits that they were blessed by children who never really caused them any problems.
I’m not really sure, after delivering newspapers at the age of 12, when Dick really began working in retail. When he was in Korea he ran the Post Exchange, or PX, which, for those of you who might not have experience military life, the PX is a sort of general store and is often the only connection with the “real world” and the only chance that men and women in uniform have to buy much of anything, particularly when they are in a combat zone. And so, after Dick came home, he started working for the Acme grocery chain and did so for the next 43 years. As manager, he worked lots of hours. He worked 6 days a week and they were long days. And then, with the family waiting in the car, he still had to stop at the store every Sunday after church to make sure that all of the freezers and refrigerators were working properly. But then, after he checked that everything was okay, every Sunday during the summer, the whole family would drive to Atwood Lake where they would meet Ralph and Mary and the entire extended family and all the cousins would be together. In all, work took a lot of Dick’s time, but any time that he wasn’t at work, you know that he would be with his family, or at church, or both.
As a family they would do things together any time they could. They traveled together to Atwood Lake every Sunday in the summer, they went to the Outer Banks, and over the years they went camping in Michigan, West Virginia, Hocking Hills, Mohican and other places. And the whole family went hiking, in all of those places, and wherever they could. Later, Dick and Wanda organized 17 different bus trips to New York and Chicago and places all over. Many of those trips were with the folks from their Sunday school class. And on top of all that, Dick and Wanda still found time to be alone from time to time, and together, just the two of them, they traveled to Alaska and Hawaii.
By the time his grandchildren arrived on the scene, he had retired from Acme and he wasn’t about to miss a single minute of anything if he could help it. He went to everything, every dance, every volleyball game, every football game, everything. By now you probably have the impression that Dick Lewton had a strong work ethic, and you’d be right. His work ethic was as strong as they come, but if you thing about it, it wasn’t just about work. Whatever Dick did, he committed himself, he devoted himself, wholeheartedly, to doing it to the best of his ability with everything that he had. He worked like crazy at Acme, even when he suffered from terrible headaches he would still go to work. He joined the Canton Kiwanis club and became their president. He spent hours and hours helping with the Genoa schoolhouse project. He was the president of the condo association. He still attended monthly lunches with his friends from Lincoln High School. He enjoyed working at the church and he was, as I noted earlier, one of those people that you knew you could call to get things done, and you knew that if he agreed to do it, that it would absolutely get done. He taught Sunday school for ten years, was the president of the Pathfinders class, and worked on almost all of the church committees at one time or another, although he liked working with the church finances more than the others things.
Richard Lewton was the kind of a man that could talk to anybody and nobody was a stranger, at least not for long. Everyone who knew him, liked him, and that includes all of the employees who worked for him. He was the kind of a man who didn’t talk about people behind their back and who, despite working six or even seven days a week, with long hours, never spoke negatively of his employer. Dick always had to be busy with something or be busy talking to someone. He was always busy with a hobby, or building something, or fixing something, or even planning something. Even when he really couldn’t do a lot himself, he was still imagining what could be done and really seemed to enjoy proposing ideas to my sons for their Eagle Scout projects.
Just a moment ago, I mentioned that, as a family, they would do things together any time they could. His children admitted that, learning from Dick’s example, and with some encouragement from him, they often would look for an excuse to get together. They would have campfires, or bonfires, or picnics, or some other kind of gathering just so that family could get together. And Dick loved every minute of it. He once told them, “This is what it’s all about.” It was all about the gathering. It was all about being together. It was all about family. It was all about… love.
Everyone who knew Dick Lewton always felt both loved and valued. And in the world in which we live, that is truly a special gift. If I had to boil everything that I know about Dick Lewton into four words, I’d end up with words like family, committed, faithfulness, and… love.
I have no difficulty imagining that as Richard Lewton arrived at the gates of heaven, he heard the words of his master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
Tyler Higgins (grandson):
Yesterday we lost the greatest grandpa anyone could ask for. Thank you for introducing me to woodworking, taking me fishing when I was younger, and teaching me to golf (although I don’t know how much you taught me golfing if you look at my scorecard). I’m going to miss your back cracking bear hugs and your amazing personality. I just want to thank you for everything you have done for me and turning me into who I am today.
Jennifer (Jenni) Lewton-Yates (granddaughter):
The last time I lived in Ohio and got to see Grandpa more than maybe just once or twice a year was thirteen years ago, and writing this now I realize that almost everything I think and feel about him is focalized through my eyes as a either child or at best a “barely adult,” so I generally just come up with a feeling of warm fuzzy –and that’s difficult to put into words. He had the best toys (usually battery operated and noise making), a pool when I was little (he could shoot amazing water jets with his hands), always had candy or cookies in the house, ice cream before bed when I spent the night, chocolate milk when we went out to eat, cable TV –almost like he was a giant kid. I loved the way his eyes got extra sparkly when he smiled, which was a lot. He taught me how to play checkers and the importance of antiques –that’s a lesson I may have internalized and taken to the extreme in my choice of career. As an adult I see that he modeled, really without ever making an overt point of it, two thing that have been so important to me as I’ve learned to make a home so far from family. First –he loved Grandma; that was so very, very clear. Many of my memories of him are inextricably linked to thoughts of her because they were and are a pair. This steadfast companionship in a spouse –Grandpa got that and showed that. Most of the time his eyes were sparkling at Grandma. Second –he took participation in a church community seriously. What to a child sounded like strange talk about renovations to a crazy place called the “northex” (one of Grandpa’s charming Lisbon pronunciations like “chimbly”) –Sunday school classes who made peanut brittle were much more up my ally—I now understand this as part of the work that keeps a church going. Now that I’ve had to put down new roots far from home, I recognize how important being a part of a church community is to my sense of well-being. Grandpa clearly got that, too. I will forever be grateful for the fun, for the boundless love, and for the fantastic example you set forward.
Lauren Higgins (granddaughter):
My grandpa was an amazing, caring, and such a loveable person. He was such an amazing person to look up to. I am beyond blessed to be able to call him my grandpa. Growing up, both of my grandparents were at every little league softball, cheerleading, and volleyball game. If they weren’t at one of my games, they were watching my brother at one of his games. We are so grateful to be able to say that. Not a lot of people know what it is like to have grandparents that are willing to spoil you with their time rather than material things. As we grow older, that is something that I will always cherish. I can’t express how grateful that I will forever be to both of my grandparents for that.
Growing up, my favorite holiday was always Thanksgiving. I loved this holiday because I got to spend the entire weekend at my grandparents’ house. I would stay the night and we would watch Christmas movies and my grandpa and I would eat way too much ice cream. Over the weekend we would help my grandma decorate Christmas cookies. Now, if you know my grandpa, you know how ornery he was. He would frost the cookies but he would “accidentally break them,” and say “Oh well, no one wants to eat a broken Santa Claus, looks like I have to eat it.” After the 12th cookie, my grandma caught on to what he was doing. These silly memories may have not seemed like anything, but they were everything to me. I can’t even put into words how great of a person and grandfather he was. I just want to thank both my grandpa and grandma for everything that they have ever done for me, and thank you grandpa for being such a positive impact in my life.
John 3:16-21 (one of Dick’s favorites)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Richard (Dick) Lewton
February 24, 1929 – November 30, 2016
Resided in Perry Township, OH
Born 2/24/1929 in Lisbon, Ohio to Carl and Jessie Lewton. Moved as a teenager to Perry Township where he resided until his death on November 30.
Proceeded in death by his parents, sister Jean Evans, and brother Harold.
Dick leaves behind loving and devoted wife of 67+ years, Wanda. She has been at his side faithfully every day throughout his decline over the past 5 months. He is survived his older brother Ralph (Mary). His children are Ron (Kathy), Denny, and Kari (Dean) Higgins; grandchildren Jennifer (David) Yates, Tyler and Lauren Higgins, great-granddaughter Lily Yates. He was also very close to his extended family which includes many nieces and nephews.
Dick proudly served his country in the Korean War, was retired as a store manager from Acme Grocery after 43 years of service, and was always very active in his church (Trinity UMC) and community organizations. He was a past president of the Canton Kiwanis Club. He loved his family dearly; he was a friend to many.
We will miss him greatly.
His life will be celebrated on Monday, December 12th at 11 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church. The family will receive friends at the Paquelet & Arnold-Lynch Funeral Home on Sunday, December 11th from 2-4 p.m. and on Monday at the church from 10-11 a.m.
Contributions can be made in his memory to the Perry History Club for the renovation of the historic 1893 Genoa grade school building, P.O. BOX # 80575, Canton, OH 44708-0575. Renovating this building was his passion over the past many years.