Van Lewis Obituary

Van Lewis Memoriam
Vol. 9
No. 1
Anonymous
Sun, 06/12/2011

William "Van" Brunt Lewis, 68, died at home at St. Teresa on Monday, June 6th of pancreatic cancer. Born in Tallahassee on May 17, 1943 to Clifton Van Brunt and George Lewis II, he was raised in Tallahassee and spent summers at St. Teresa.

He is survived by a very large and beloved family: his wife of 38 years, Mary Alda Balthrop, their children, Amara Teresa Hastings, Alda Balthrop-Lewis, son-in-law Al Hastings, and grandchildren, Sarah "Sadie" Teresa and William "Tate" Hastings; his adored mother, Clifton Van Brunt Lewis, and siblings, George Edward Lewis II and wife Mary Ann, Clifton Byrd Lewis Mashburn, and Benjamin Bridges Lewis; aunts and uncles Betty Lewis, Frank and Jean Lewis, Betty Harrison, Bill Lewis, Jenn Van Brunt, and Bunny Van Brunt; 7 sisters-in-law, 7 brothers-in-law, 48 nieces and nephews, 19 grand-nieces and nephews, and many beloved cousins and friends.

He attended Sealey and Cobb, and graduated from Leon High School class of 1961. He attended Harvard College for one year with the class of 1965, and played the conch shell with the Harvard Band. He was granted a leave of absence by Harvard College that welcomed him to return whenever he chose. He remained on leave for the rest of his life, and maintained a great enthusiasm for Harvard and his classmates and attended many reunions with great interest and joy. He had a life-long friendship with his much-loved Harvard Biology professor and mentor George Wald. He learned from George that "the really difficult but exciting and important part of life is sensing what questions are important to ask and determining how to ask them intelligently so that the correct answers come out as a matter of course."

In 1973 and 1974 he worked in East Point as a boat builder's apprentice to Mr. Joseph Lolley, whom he described as a fisherman, boat builder, and saint. He credited Mr. Lolley with teaching him how to live and love and die.

In 1975 he began Lewiseafoods, a seafood business with operations on Thomasville Road in Tallahassee and in Apalachicola which he ran for 15 years with the help of dedicated partners and employees. In 2001 he started a clam farm in Alligator Harbor near his home, providing clams to local restaurants and farmers' markets. His passion for clams was contagious and he relished every opportunity to share his clams and trips to his clam farm. He was an enthusiastic and key participant in recent research and market development of the local Sun Ray Venus clam. His work as a clam farmer continued until the start of his illness in late 2010.

In early adulthood, he began to question the violence of both female and male circumcision and reached the conclusion that these acts, whether practiced as cultural rituals or medical procedure, were harmful to both individuals and the culture. As he studied and learned more, he became aware of general ignorance about the harm of these practices, specifically the trauma of male infant circumcision. As a result, he felt called to become an outspoken opponent of male infant circumcision. He was grateful to his many friends in Jews Against Circumcision (http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org) for educating him about how to live faithfully within a tradition while changing it for the better. Determined to remain focused on love even in the face of ignorance and ridicule, he taught passionately in every way he could that male infant circumcision is a medically unnecessary and harmful trauma that violates the rights of the child. For the innocent, vulnerable, and voiceless, he remained a tireless voice until the end of his life.

He was an environmentalist who cared deeply about the health of our planet. He became interested in organic farming in the late 1960s, taught biointensive agriculture as a FAVACA volunteer in multiple Caribbean nations, and was president of the Florida Organic Growers 1993 to 1995. He was a visionary protector of natural areas. He and his wife purchased 20 acres around Silver Lake in Wakulla County with the intention of saving it from development. They later sold the land for inclusion in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

A dual citizen of both the United States and the Republic of Ireland, he loved to travel and experience other countries and cultures. But his primary loves were St. Teresa, the Gulf of Mexico, Franklin County, and spending time roaming Alligator Harbor and the Dog Island Reef with his much-loved wife Mary, Amara and Al, Alda and David, his grandchildren Sadie and Tate, nieces and nephews, and any other friends or relations he could safely fit on his boat Wild Thing. He was a playful man who loved to share stories, dance, and especially to sing. He said he was "basically just a family man."

His family would like to express their appreciation to the many caring professionals, friends and family who assisted them during his illness by sharing expertise, donating mother's milk, growing organic vegetables and wheat grass, cooking and cleaning, and most of all expressing your love to him.

A memorial service will be held at St John's Episcopal Church, 211 North Monroe, on Monday, June 20th at 3 p.m. His remains will be buried in a private burial at his home at St. Teresa.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Van's honor to any of the following organizations whose work he valued: NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, PO Box 2512, San Anselmo, CA, 94979-2512, http://www.nocirc.org), Attorneys for the Rights of the Child (2961 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA, 94705, http://www.arclaw.org), or Doctors Opposing Circumcision (2442 NW Market St., S-42, Seattle, WA, 98107, http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org).

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