Rosa Bludworth Lewis; 1928-2014: Music teacher for Lourdes directed choirs


Story updated at 8:01 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 to reflect the following change: Mrs. Lewis bought her son a calf’s head and a beef heart for him to dissect.

Rosa Bludworth Lewis, retired from the faculty of Lourdes College and who brought verve to her pursuits — domestic, musical, and academic — died on March 3 in Flower Hospital. She was 86.

The cause of death was complications related to heart failure, her family said.

Mrs. Lewis received her doctorate in 1980 from the University of Toledo and about a year later started teaching music and history at what is now Lourdes University in Sylvania. In the mid-1980s she started a women’s history class, inspired in part by the feminist literature her daughter studied at UCLA and sent home to Toledo. Mrs. Lewis’ favorite course focused on the social history of women in America since its founding.

“I like it because it’s so interdisciplinary,” Mrs. Lewis told The Blade in 1993. “You get into philosophy, psychology, and everything else. People coming to that class have such a sense of recognition. I can’t shut them up sometimes.”

Mrs. Lewis was a former chairman of Lourdes’ arts and humanities division. She also was a former chairman of the women’s history committee of the Women Alive! Coalition, which produced several volumes on women of achievement, In Search of Our Past: Women of Northwest Ohio. She gave talks to clubs and groups around the Toledo area and was in demand during March, Women’s History Month.

She was born Feb. 13, 1928, in Weimer, Texas, to Charles and Rosa Bludworth. Her father was a Methodist minister, and the family moved as he accepted a call to a new church. An illness in his 30s forced him from the pulpit, and Mrs. Lewis’ mother returned to school, got a doctorate, and became a college teacher and the family breadwinner.

Music captured Mrs. Lewis’ interest in childhood, from opera on the radio to spirituals in the African-American churches she visited with her father. While attending Southern Methodist University, she took private voice lessons and she learned to play the piano. She received her bachelor’s degree in history.

She had a master’s degree from the University of Texas and returned to Southern Methodist for doctoral studies. There she met her husband, Frank Marshall Lewis, a political science student.

They married in 1952, and her husband later took a teaching job at the University of South Dakota.

She thought she would return to her own studies eventually, but full-time work in the home was the social expectation, she told The Blade.

“That’s what I grew up with, the idea that being a housewife is the highest calling,” she told The Blade.

The family moved to Toledo in 1965, when her husband was hired to the UT political science faculty.

She was a choir director through the years at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Collingwood Presbyterian Church, and St. Michael’s in the Hills Episcopal Church.

A contralto, she performed at the Toledo Museum of Art and at other gatherings.

At home, she organized the family camping trips and fossil-hunting expeditions and organized her children’s music lessons. When her son, in grade school, showed an interest in science, she went to the neighborhood market and got a calf’s head and a beef heart for him to dissect. She cared for the family menagerie, which included mice and birds.

“I learned more science from her probably than school,” said her son, now a math teacher. “She was enthusiastic about whatever her kids were into. She was gung-ho for everything.”

Her husband died March 22, 2001.

Surviving are her son, George Lewis; daughter, Susan Lewis; brother, Charles Bludworth, and a grandson.

Memorial services will be at 10 a.m. March 29 in Kingston Residence of Sylvania.

The family suggests tributes to Kingston Residence of Sylvania employee benefit fund.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.