Joel D. Lewis, 69, Sol Levinson funeral director for 25 years

October 22, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Joel D. Lewis, a retired funeral director and longtime Pikesville resident, died of a stroke Sunday at Sinai Hospital. He was 69.

Born into a family of funeral directors, he was raised in Baltimore. Mr. Lewis grew up on Burleith Avenue and was a 1951 graduate of City College. He served in the Air Force until 1954, attaining the rank of staff sergeant.

Mr. Lewis received his training at the Eckels School of Mortuary Science in Philadelphia, and began working in 1955 at Jack Lewis Funeral Home on Eutaw Place, which was owned and operated by a great-uncle.

In 1967, he joined his father, Sylvan S. Lewis, who operated a funeral home on Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore. In 1973, he went to work for Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., from which he retired in 1998.

"He was a very warm individual who liked helping people. He was both compassionate and sensitive," said Stanley T. Levinson, co-owner of the funeral home. "He was everything that a person who had suffered a death in the family would want. ... He was very understanding of their needs and received many complimentary letters from families he had worked with."

It was not uncommon for Mr. Lewis to put in long hours, sometimes working seven days a week.

"Joel wasn't afraid of hard work, and took pride in it. He was able to quickly put families at ease and was always ahead of their questions. He anticipated their needs and this came from years of experience in the business," Mr. Levinson said.

H. James Eckhardt, owner of Eckhardt Funeral Chapel in Owings Mills and a friend of many years, said Mr. Lewis was a highly regarded funeral director. "He had a compassion and understanding of people, and he always took into consideration their financial situation. I know that he did a lot of funerals and charged nothing," Mr. Eckhardt said.

Mr. Lewis was active in Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters and was a member of the Panthers, a Jewish social club founded in East Baltimore in 1940.

"He'd also visit Jewish inmates who were incarcerated in the Maryland State Penitentiary," Mr. Levinson said.

Mr. Lewis was a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. A Mason, he was a member of St. John's Lodge, Yedz Grotto and the Golden Eagle. He was also a former member of the Summit Country Club, and enjoyed fishing and collecting porcelain sculptures.

Services will be held at noon today at the Levinson funeral home, 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

Mr. Lewis is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Barbara Meyerwitz; a son, Jay A. Lewis of Reisterstown, also a funeral director; a sister, Jackie Steinhorn of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; and three grandchildren.

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