Oct 7th 1933 - Aug 26th 2013
Dean S. Lewis was an accomplished man in all that mattered most. He was a devoted and inspirational husband, father, grandfather, friend and confidant as well as a respected professional. He was soft spoken but effective, quiet yet witty, and generous though humble. Never seeking the limelight, and almost embarrassed to receive acknowledgment, Dean made an impact in his community in ways that profoundly influenced the lives of others.
Born in Sturgis, Michigan on October 7, 1933 to Elmer and Etta (Doren) Lewis, Dean and his older siblings, Doreen and Delmar, came from modest beginnings. His father was a bookkeeper and his mother taught in Sturgis Public Schools, but his neighbor also had an influence on Dean’s life. Raymond Dresser, Sr. was an attorney, and Dean looked up to him as a role model. His life and career interested young Dean, who never let go of the idea of being in public service in the same way.
Dean attended Sturgis High School, where he excelled in music and sports. He played lineman on the football team as well as baritone and trombone in the band and served as drum major for one year. Throughout high school he worked at a local gas and service station to earn spending money and to start saving for college, always setting aside a share of that money for chocolate and fireworks!
In his senior year at Sturgis High School Dean met Jeanene Miller, who had just moved to town from Constantine as a freshman. He and his friends did the neighborly thing and invited Jeanene and a few of her friends to a carnival in downtown Sturgis. As luck would have it, the car was packed with kids and Jeanene ended up sitting on Dean's lap. That was the beginning of their dating relationship, which had a most happy conclusion when they eventually married.
After receiving his high school diploma in 1951, Dean went on to Olivet College, where he played football (offensive and defensive line) and majored in math. Still, he couldn’t rid himself of the dream he had since childhood, to one day become a lawyer. Fortuitously, he found lodging at the home of the Olivet College librarian, paying for his room, board and education by cleaning house and working at various jobs around campus. His hard work and persistence paid off when he was admitted to the University of Michigan Law School in 1955, where he earned his law degree in 1958.
That same year, on June 21, 1958, Dean and Jeanene were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Sturgis. They honeymooned in Colorado (Estes Park and the Denver area) before heading off to Kansas City, Missouri, where Dean started his legal career. After one year, he and Jeanene returned to Michigan, and in 1959 he became an associate with a law firm in Kalamazoo, focusing on estate planning and business law. His office was located in the American National Bank Building (now Fifth Third Bank). Little did he know he would spend the remainder of his 54-year legal career working out of that same building.
As successful as Dean became in his career, he and Jeanene poured themselves into the lives of their five children: Jane, John, Tom, David and Jim. After a long day at the office, he would "leave work at work" and often indulge his kids in a variety of activities, including board games, hide-and-seek, occasional "rough-housing", and the all-important game of Yahtzee. He also made time to attend their sports games, extra-curricular activities and school conferences. When it came to yard work and home repairs, he typically hired that out (explaining that "it was good for the economy"), except for the job of trimming the bushes, which, for some reason, he always did himself. Summer vacations were often spent wherever the State Bar conventions were held, but the family also made trips out west, to Disney and, of course, to lots of U of M football games. The family also made many fond summer memories over the years at the Miller family (Jeanene) cottage on Klinger Lake (though, that was roughing it for Dean) and hosting annual 4th of July parties at home with fireworks galore! Whatever he did, Dean put the wishes of his family above his own.
Among Dean's favorite past times were reading mysteries, watching his favorite western cowboy shows, following college sports, spending time with his close friends, and taking his grand kids to the movies (routinely followed by a stop for ice cream before heading home). He was also a faithful, lifelong promoter of Olivet College, eventually serving on its Board of Trustees. He was always proud to proclaim Olivet as his alma mater.
Dean was most recently a partner in the Kalamazoo law firm Lewis, Reed & Allen and devoted much of his career to improving the legal profession. Shortly after being admitted to practice, he became President of the Young Lawyers Section of the Michigan State Bar, eventually leading the Young Lawyers to the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) First Place Award for Achievement in 1968. Dean continued to dedicate himself to State Bar initiatives and was eventually elected State Bar President for the 1980-1981 term.
In 1984, Dean and other State Bar colleagues founded the Michigan State Bar Foundation Fellows Program, which honors distinguished Michigan attorneys dedicated to the advancement of justice, public understanding of the legal system and support for legal services to the poor. He strove to improve the national legal profession through his tireless involvement in the ABA, including service as a member of the ABA’s House of Delegates from 1977-1982. He actively participated in many of the ABA’s Practice Sections, particularly those related to Corporate Finance, Business Law and Probate and Estate Planning. Dean was a Life Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the American Judicature Society, elected as its director from 1983-1987. From 1992-2000, he served as a Trustee of the State Bar Foundation, of which he was a Life Fellow. As quoted in a Michigan Bar Journal cover story about him, Dean implored young lawyers to “[n]ever forget to put some of what you take back into the profession…. Where, you may ask, do the time and energy come for this task? There is no easy answer. They simply must be found.”
Dean demonstrated his commitment to the Kalamazoo area through decades of community service. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo, offering his gifts as elder, deacon, trustee of Counsel and clerk of Session. Dean was active in many local professional organizations and served on numerous Boards of Directors, including the Kalamazoo Rotary Club (President from 1992-1993), the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, the Kalamazoo County Red Cross, Shepherd’s Center of Kalamazoo and the Boy Scouts of America. He was President of the Park Club in 1982 and, until the time of his death, a Trustee of the Board of Olivet College.
In spite of, or perhaps because of the many activities, commitments and demands made upon his time, Dean managed to volunteer with the highest levels of commitment, integrity, honor and love. Those who knew Dean or have been affected by his actions will aspire to improve their lives, their communities and the world by finding the time and energy to care about others before themselves.
In 2009, after fifty years of practicing law, Dean’s law firm honored his years of service with a grand anniversary party. Thereafter, he continued to stay involved with his practice by frequently visiting the office "to make sure everything was in order".
Over the years, Dean had had some medical problems, but in August of 2013, he experienced a fall and due to ensuing complications, never fully recovered.
Dean S. Lewis of Kalamazoo passed away peacefully at Borgess Hospital on Monday, August 26, 2013, after almost 80 years of service, devotion, laughter and happiness. His family and friends enjoyed nothing more than spending time in each other’s company and reflecting the love they received from Dean. Those who knew and cherished him will daily long for his wit, wisdom, compassion and generous spirit.
Dean is survived by Jeanene, his wife of 55 years; his five children, Jane (William) Carpenter, Johnathan (Tammie), Thomas, David (Robyn) and James (Karen); and his thirteen grandchildren, Jane’s children, Sarah and Daniel Carpenter; John’s children, Abbey, Kelsey and Emily Lewis; Tom’s children, Clayton, Eliza and Evelyn Lewis; David’s children, Benjamin and Zachary Lewis; and Jim’s children, Henry, Peter and Elizabeth Lewis. Also surviving him are his sister, Doreen (Lewis) Jump, sister-in-law, Thayma Lewis, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Kathleen and Ned Caywood and many loving cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his brother, Delmar Lewis.
Services will be held Tuesday, September 3, 2013, at 2:00 PM at the First Presbyterian Church (321 W. South St.) with a gathering time beginning at 12:30 PM. Please visit Dean’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the church. Memorial donations may be made to the Olivet College Alumni Scholarship Fund or the First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo. Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive; 269-375-2900.