FRED C. LEWIS SR.Fred C. Lewis Sr., state banking pioneer and Downtown Duluth business leader for nearly 50 years, died at home Wednesday at the age of 93.
Pioneer, Civic Booster
Fred C. Lewis Sr., state banking pioneer and Downtown Duluth business leader for nearly 50 years, died at home Wednesday at the age of 93.
He was born on Oct. 9, 1919 to Judith (Hartley) Lewis and Douglas H. Lewis in Duluth.
Lewis started in the family banking business at Park State Bank in 1945. An entrepreneur and believer in the future of Duluth, he purchased Northwestern Bank of Commerce in 1951. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, he grew the North Shore Company to include individually-chartered banks in Lakeside, Woodland and Hermantown.
In 1961, Lewis purchased and moved the flagship bank and built new buildings on the corners of 2nd Ave. West and Superior St. as well as on the avenue at First St. Both new buildings were in the heart of downtown Duluth and became known as “the bank with the open door” and for its three-flag logo. Today, it operates under the name of North Shore Bank of Commerce. It continues be owned and managed in the Lewis family.
One of the all-time boosters of Duluth, Lewis chaired the 1956 Duluth Centennial Celebration. In 2006 the City of Duluth opened the time capsule which he was instrumental in filling. His vision for commerce in the upper Midwest led him to work for the expansion of the Duluth port and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. He served as commissioner on the Duluth Seaway Port Authority from 1956-1962. Throughout his business life, this same vision for commerce and entrepreneurship led him to support UMD’s Labovitz School of Business. In 1981, Lewis chaired Duluth’s United Way campaign.
A staunch political partisan for most of his life, Lewis was known for his strong opinions and willingness to express them. Active in state politics and state banking issues, he counted many of the state’s leaders – both democrats and republicans – among his friends during the active part of his business life. In 1995, the Minnesota Bankers Association named him A Minnesota Banking Pioneer.
Life-long Episcopalians, Fred and Mary Lewis were among a small group of stalwarts founding St. Edward’s Episcopal Church in the late 1950s as a mission outreach congregation. They worked tirelessly to build a sure foundation for its growth and relocation from Superior St. in Lakeside to Glenwood Ave.
Lewis also helped pioneer independent secondary education in Duluth when he and a group of Duluth civic leaders purchased the former Cathedral School from the Catholic Diocese of Duluth and redefined its mission to be that of an independent college preparatory school serving students of all faiths. They went on to find new and stronger funding to lay the foundation for today’s Marshall School.
A devoted hockey fan, few knew he played semi-pro hockey in the 1940s in Miami, Fla. Area UMD hockey fans knew his frequent referee admonishments and steadfast attendance at nearly six decades of Bulldog hockey games. In 2000, the University of Minnesota Duluth awarded Lewis an honorary degree.
A life-long supporter of education and art, he established the FCL and MHL Marshall School Scholarship Fund, at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, to enable a student with financial need to attend the school. He annually purchased the best-in-show painting in the Arrowhead Regional Art Exhibit in support of regional artists. And, in 2002, he combined both these interests by purchasing the Julia Marshall Watercolor Collection and donating it to the Marshall School.
In the last decade of his life, Fred Lewis set an example for physical fitness dedication and outdoor rehabilitation. A polio survivor in 1955 and Parkinson’s disease patient for over 10 years, he continued his love of sports and the outdoors with the help of the Courage Center and numerous rehabilitation professionals. Undaunted, he could be found on golf courses, in sail boats and kayaks and, as recently as this winter, on the ski hill at Spirit Mountain. His love of the outdoors never waned.
Lewis is survived by his wife of 64 years Mary Holmes Lewis; sons Donald (Sally) of Columbus, Ohio, Douglas (Jennifer) of Duluth, daughters Dale of Duluth, and Anne (Peter Nord) of Baltimore, Md.; seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
VISITATION: 10 a.m. with Funeral Service at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 15, 2013 in St Paul’s Episcopal Church at 1710 East Superior St., Duluth, Rev William Van Oss, officiating. Memorials may be made to the Judith H. Lewis Memorial Trust, and the FCL and MHL Marshall School Scholarship Fund at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home, (218) 727-3555.