OBITUARY

Albert L. Lewis

June 19, 1944March 9, 2018
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Lewis, Albert “Al”, 73, beloved husband of Nancy Meyerson (nee Robbins), loving father of Tracee Lewis, Terrance Lewis and Theodore (Annette) Smith, dear brother of June (Willie) Taylor and brother-in-law of Marsha Santelli and Martin (Nancy) Kaplan, fond uncle of many nieces and nephews and “adopted” family to Kate Hoch (Rev. Tanya Denley), Nichelle Winters, Charlie Brown and the furry Mia. A caring mentor, both personal and professional, to many and a great friend to all. Al was Vice President of Workforce Diversity at Advocate Health Care until his retirement. A celebration of Al’s life will take place on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at Drake and Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL. Visitation at 10:00 a.m. and service at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Care for Real food pantry, 5339 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60640, www.careforreal.org/tributes would be greatly appreciated. Info 773-561-6874 or www.drakeandsonfuneralhome.com ​

Services

PREVIOUS SERVICES:

  • Memorial Visitation Saturday, March 17, 2018
  • Service Saturday, March 17, 2018

OTHER SERVICES:

  • Services Conclude This Afternoon
REMEMBERING

Albert L. Lewis

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Fr Thomas Nangle, CPD chaplain retired

March 16, 2018

A good man, gone to God. I’m touched by the photos on this site...the smiles and happiness and loved ones all around. May he know God’s peace now.

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Biography

Al Lewis dedicated his life to helping others feel good and be the best they could be. Intelligent, compassionate, witty, musical, Al lived a full, rewarding life of service. A family man, a business man, a charitable man, he strove to ensure that all people were treated fairly and respectfully.

The son of C.E. and Ethel Lewis, Al was a proud Chicagoan. He grew up on the south side with his sister June, attended Catholic schools and studied to be a priest at Mundelein Seminary. Before taking his vows, he understood that the priesthood was not his best path, but wanted to continue to help others. He received a master’s degree in urban planning and took numerous classes to become a licensed psychiatric social worker.

Always the musician, he taught music and math at Manley Upper Grade Academy in Chicago before becoming director of Mayor Daley’s Neighborhood Youth Corp, the largest jobs program for underserved youth in the country. From there, he entered the health care industry as assistant to the administrator for Subregion 3 of the Illinois Department of Mental Health.

Al joined Evangelical Health Systems, the forerunner of Advocate Health Care, in 1974 as assistant director of Bethany Hospital. In 1979, he moved to the corporate offices where he held several positions in marketing, planning, government and corporate relations. When EHS merged with Lutheran General Hospital, Al was named vice president workforce diversity with responsibility for employee relations, government compliance, human resources and more. While at Advocate, he instituted job sharing so female executives could reach the highest levels of management without sacrificing their personal lives; instituted interested-based advisory panels; designed and implemented a family-friendly benefits program, and led Advocate to become the first faith-based institution to offer domestic partnership benefits. Al retired from Advocate in 2013 after 39 years of service. While doing this he was active on numerous boards, serving as a director of the Healthcare Associates Credit Union, Westside Community Action, the Chicago City Colleges and more.

But Al will be remembered most for who he was as a person and for what he did for others. He was a teacher, a mentor and a friend who tried to develop the potential of all. His house was always open to Tracee and Terry’s friends, and he served as a surrogate family to many. When he and Nancy married in 2000, her family became his, and together they enjoyed music, especially the Grant Park Symphony, the opera, flowers (but not necessarily gardening) travel, reading, playing with first Kelly and then Mia and, perhaps most of all, being with and entertaining friends and family.


From the Program Book

People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
—Maya Angelou


Because Al wanted a celebration and not a funeral, this will be a most untraditional service. He loved flowers, bright colors, wine, music, laughter and fun. While the wine must wait until later today, we hope this program will be filled with joy and laughter. That you think of Al singing (especially Christmas carols in March), telling stories and playing with Mia. And that you will tell some of your favorite “Al stories” or sing in his honor.
Al was ecumenical, and he celebrated every holiday from the Ascension to Yom Kippur, so we will share blessings and readings from multiple religions – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim. He loved music, and we will hear all genres. He loved family and friends, and we will hear from both his biological family and the family of friends he created.


Greetings Rev. Tanya J. Denley, officiant
“My Way” Alex Magno
2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight” Rev. Denley
“The Shadow of Your Smile” Mr. Magno
A Reading from the Quran Judith Lansky
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” Assembly
Mourner’s Kaddish Martin Kaplan
Guitar excerpt from “Earthborn: Tales of Soul
and Spirit” John Moulder, composer
Prayer Rev. Denley
“Impossible Dream” Mr. Magno
Eulogy Nancy Meyerson Lewis
23rd Psalm Assembly
Catholic Prayer and Commendation Fr. Robert Cook, OFM CONV
“Over the Rainbow” Mr. Magno, Mr. Moulder
“Al Stories”
Jewish Prayer and Commendation Rev. Denley
“Pie Jesu”
“Celebrate” Assembly

Lunch follows at Cellars Restaurant, 5900 N. Broadway, Chicago
Shiva at Meyerson /Lewis house, 833 W. Gunnison, Chicago, Saturday 5:00-9:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00-8:00 p.m.


Thank You's

Thank you for being part of Al’s life and for sharing in this celebration.
We’d especially like to thank the clergy, friends and family
who helped plan or are taking part in this celebration.

Rev. Tanya J. Denley for officiating today
Fr. Robert Cook, OFM CONV for his blessing
Martin Kaplan for saying Kaddish
Judi Lansky for reading from the Quran
Alex Magno for sharing his beautiful voice and channeling Frank Sinatra
John Moulder for his brilliant guitar playing
Charlie Brown for helping to care for Al with love over the last six months
Nichelle Winters and Kate Denley for being like daughters to us
Carrol McCarren for being a dear friend and handmaiden
“Cookie Sue” Henning for her wonderful baking skills

And all our wonderful friends with whom we’ve shared a glass of wine, a laugh or a story during this journey.
Thank you all for being with us to celebrate the life of Al Lewis.


Nancy's Eulogy


Al dreamed many impossible dreams in his life and made many of them come true.

He marched with Dr. King in Chicago and toured the West Side with Mayor Daley to try to help restore order after the riots in 1968. He worked to bring opportunities to youth as director of Neighborhood Youth Corps, the largest jobs program for underserved youth in the country. He was committed to equal pay and equal opportunities for all and combatted all forms of discrimination and sexual and racial harassment as vice president of workforce diversity at Advocate Health Care. And he was largely responsible for Advocate’s becoming the first major faith-based institution to offer domestic partnership benefits, long before marriage equality became a reality.

But Al was more than a crusader. He was intelligent, compassionate, dedicated and a fierce defender of what is right. A lifelong Democrat, he started out as a precinct captain in his early teens and voted for the last time the morning of the day he died.

Politics played an important part in our relationship. Al and I met after I placed a personals ad in the Chicago Tribune in the long-ago days before on-line dating. He answered my ad, and during our first phone conversation, newly-elected state representative Carol Ronen called to see if I wanted to have lunch. I said yes but that I was on another call and would get back to her. 45 minutes later, Carol called again. I told her I was talking to Al Lewis. Turns out that Carol knew Al and told me he was “a good guy” – ringing praise from Carol. It made me much open to a meeting.

Our first formal date also had political overtones. Al met me at a rally where a friend was announcing her candidacy for judge. I was doing communications for her campaign. Al walked in, and it turned out he knew more people at the rally than I did. And so it went. I think that last vote may have been in part to thank Carol, who now is our committeeman, for that early endorsement.

In the personal ads, I mentioned I loved music, opera, dance, theater, travel, wine and football. Al shared those interests with a passion. He sang in several choirs as youth and in both the Grant Park Symphony and Chicago Symphony choruses. He sang and acted in school plays and for a few performances appeared in the professional company of Hair. He even in those days danced ballet, although he was more valued for his strength and ability to lift his partner than for his grace.

The night he took me to see the Joffrey Ballet I knew I was hooked. In fact, from the first time we met, we never dated anyone else.

Not to say our relationship was without difficulties. As an inter-racial couple, we faced pressure from all sides, although Al really faced more than I did. Because he was vice president of workforce diversity, he was perceived as the advocate for minorities in the company, and he was concerned that our relationship might diminish confidence in him. And he had social pressure for being a black man dating a white woman. The matriarchs of one community organization he supported even told him he wouldn’t be welcome – even though his money was.

Fortunately, in this wonderful community where we live, I never faced those social pressures.

We married in 2000, and like most things, it was a party rather than a ceremony.

Music continued to be a strong part of our lives, especially the Grant Park Concerts where we made new friends. Beginning in January, we would count down the weeks until opening night when we would celebrate with champagne and Sue’s chocolate cake. Even though last year was difficult, and Al’s health was beginning to decline, we made 27 or the 30 concerts. Opening night will never be the same.

We enjoyed good food and wines. Wine dinners at Cellars and the wonderful opera/wine dinners organized by Alex, always with a group of friends, allowed us to indulge three of passions.

We travelled, even though it sometimes was difficult. Al introduced me to Paris where we kissed on 17 of the 37 bridges that cross the Seine. To Venice and Florence and Rome where he showed me through the Vatican where he had been several times as a seminarian. We went to both coasts and to the Stratford festival, alone and with dear friends, where we indulged our love of travel, theater and friends.

We cruised to get away from winter weather, and we made new friends there as well. It was always easy to make friends when I was with Al. His outgoing personality and big laugh drew people to him.

He had an inquisitive mind and a wealth of knowledge. A friend we made while on a cruise reminded me that they talked about how they were probably the only two people on the ship of more than 2,000 who knew Ancient Greek and could have a conversation about Homeric epithets!

Al was committed to helping people achieve their dreams. He was the “father confessor” and disciplinarian for many of Terry and Tracee’s friends. He mentored people at work and pushed them to achieve their goals.

But most of all, Al was a devoted father to Tracee, Terry and Ted and, of course his beloved Mia and a wonderful husband to me.

Like with his kids, Al supported me in so many ways. He encouraged me to follow my passion and gave me credit, more credit than often was due, for things I worked on. Al bragged about my involvement with Care for Real and Rickover and my pet therapy work with Mia. He was my best proof-reader and judge. If I wrote an appeal letter that moved him to tears, I knew it would succeed.

He encouraged me to sing and dance and laugh. I was always told that I couldn’t sing, even though I love to and, in my heart of hearts, I know I’m not very good. But Al always told me I had a beautiful voice and when he was singing in my ear, I could carry a tune. I’m a klutz, but we danced together, even when he was in a wheelchair. I have pictures – really funny pictures – to prove it. He gave me my first dog and showed me unconditional love. He would laugh with abandon and considered it a duty to make sure I laughed every day.

He was love, my best friend, and I will always miss him. But today, let’s laugh in his memory.