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Published: Sunday, 4/3/2011

Alvin F. ‘Al' Lewis, 1926-2011: Ex-star athlete sold plumbing supplies in city


Alvin F. "Al" Lewis, a DeVilbiss High School Athletic Hall of Fame member who played football for the University of Toledo and retired as a plumbing supplies executive, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday in Astor House for Assisted Living, Holland. He was 84.

Mr. Lewis had been a resident of Astor House since December, 2007, his daughter, Kathy Heil, said. He also suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

He was first team varsity in football, basketball, and track at DeVilbiss, from which he graduated in 1944. In the early 1940s, DeVilbiss and Woodward High School were Toledo's big basketball rivals, and Mr. Lewis carried fond memories of those days for the rest of his life, Mrs. Heil said.

A week after his graduation from DeVilbiss, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, and in August of that year left for basic training at Parris Island, S.C. He spent the last part of World War II in the Pacific aboard the brand-new Essex class aircraft carrier USS Antietam. The ship was in Guam when Japan surrendered. He played basketball on one of the Marine Corps' many teams, his daughter said.

After being honorably discharged in 1946, Mr. Lewis enrolled at Michigan State University, then transferred to the University of Toledo after one term. At UT, he was a starting offensive lineman under coach Bill Orwig, who is credited with bringing the university into the modern era of college athletics by flying the football team to games, playing under the lights, and adopting new uniforms.

He graduated from UT in 1951 with a degree in education, but would never be a teacher. He remained a loyal DeVilbiss and UT alumnus for the rest of his life and was active in UT's Varsity "T" Club for letter winners.

The same year he graduated from UT, Mr. Lewis met Carol Nelson, who, like him, worked for the former Electric Auto-Lite Co. They met in April and were married six months later. She died in January of last year.

Most of Mr. Lewis' working life was spent at the Crane Supply Co. and its successor, Westburne Supply, in Toledo. He started as a salesman at the plumbing supplies wholesaler in 1954 and advanced to branch manager. He retired in March, 1990.

In retirement, Mr. Lewis enjoyed traveling with his wife and attending the athletic events of his grandchildren. His granddaughter Stacy Lewis overcame scoliosis to become a professional golfer, and he watched her compete in the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic for the past three years.

Surviving are his daughter, Kathy Heil, sons, Gary and Dale, sisters, Dorothy Ryan and Virginia Lewis, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Visitation is from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Walker Funeral Home. Services are at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Memorial Lutheran Church.

The family suggests tributes to the Stacy Lewis Scoliosis Research Society, Astor House for Assisted Living, or the Varsity "T" Club.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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