Former Mellon VP ably served his country
Edgar Sanders Lewis lived in many places but always kept track of his friends by phone and mail.
“He picked up some people who really meant a lot to him, and he always stayed in touch with them. I think it says a lot about him,” said Elsie Lewis, his wife of 43 years.
Mr. Lewis, of Edgeworth, a former vice president of Mellon Bank, an owner of farm properties in Minnesota and a member of the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services, died of lymphoma Sunday, July 24, 2005. He was 83.
Mr. Lewis’ family moved to Pittsburgh from Columbus, Ohio, when he was 14. His father came to Pittsburgh to become president of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co.
For a year, Mr. Lewis — nicknamed “Sandy” — attended Shady Side Academy before transferring to the Taft School in Watertown, Conn. He graduated in 1943 from Princeton University, where he majored in economics and French.
After graduating from college, Mr. Lewis enlisted in the Army, where he was quickly recruited by the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime intelligence service and precursor to the CIA.
“I think the reason the OSS wanted him was because he spoke such good French,” his wife said.
For much of the war, Mr. Lewis was stationed in Brussels, Belgium. Family members said they know little of his military duties because he seldom spoke about the war. He did visit German concentration camps after the Allies liberated them.
“He never liked watching war movies,” his wife said. “I guess he never thought it was glamorous.”
Mr. Lewis was able to enlist despite serious sinus problems and poor eyesight.
“It was a real act of heroism for him to enlist at all,” said Keith Rothfus, Mr. Lewis’ son-in-law. “But it was 1943, and it was the thing to do.”
After the war, Mr. Lewis enrolled in Harvard Business School. He returned to Pittsburgh before graduating when his father became ill.
During a trip to San Francisco for a friend’s wedding, Mr. Lewis was so taken with the city that he sought a job there. He worked for the Crocker Bank in San Francisco for eight years before returning to Pittsburgh to work for Mellon Bank. He became a Mellon vice president at the age of 38.
Mr. Lewis’ love for California never really ended. For 18 years, he and his wife spent winters in Carmel Valley, Calif., where he honed his golf game. The couple almost always drove from Pittsburgh to the West Coast.
For many years, Mr. Lewis oversaw the management of several farms in southwest Minnesota that had been owned by his mother’s family.
“He had a farm manager run it, but he was pretty good at knowing the business,” Rothfus said.
Mr. Lewis was a founding member of Christ Church at Grove Farm, a congregation near Sewickley that has grown to about 1,000 families. The church marked its 10th anniversary on Sunday.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Lewis is survived by six children, Farley Lewis and Elizabeth Lewis, both of Hyannis Port, Mass.. Elsie Rothfus, of Sewickley, Mary Britton, of Stratford-upon-Avon, England, Curran Estreich, of New York City, and Michael Bollinger, of Lake Forest, Ill.; and 14 grandchildren.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Ohio Township, followed by visitation in the atrium. Burial will be private.
Arrangements are by Copeland’s Sewickley funeral home.
The family asks that memorials be in the form of donations to the Samaritan’s Fund at Christ Church, 249 Duff Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, or to People Concerned for the Unborn Child, 3050 Pioneer Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15226.