• Cecil Lewis Jr.

A Story About A Man

Updated: Jan 3

I want to tell you a story about a man I know who was born in 1939 in a small little town in Southeast Kentucky near the Cumberland mountains. He is the second to the youngest of 8 children (7 boys & 1 girl). His father was a coal miner and a Pentecostal preacher (German=Pfingstler). His mother was a housewife (German=Hausfrau) and homemaker.

The family lived in a small home, with no indoor plumbing, the bathroom was an out-house (German = Toilettenhäuschen) and they had to boil water on the stove for a warm bath. I am sure his family was considered poor and their life was quite challenging with such a large family. His family also had their share of tragedy in his early years of life. One of his brothers died as a small child and at the age of 16 years old, this man had the unfortunate experience of coming home from school to find his Mother had died and was laying on floor of the kitchen.

After his Mother died, this man along with a couple of his brothers moved to Michigan to live with their oldest brother, who had moved their years before. His Father remarried very soon after his Mother passed away (he actually married the widow (German=Witwe) neighbor…hmmm?). It was not a very pleasant situation for the boys to remain in Kentucky.

This man finished high school while living in Michigan with his older brother and scored perfect grades in school (he actually received perfect scores in school throughout his life). With few options after high school and feeling that he might be a burden on his brother (who had a family of his own), he joined the U.S. Army. He served 4 years in the army and attended the 7th Army NCO academy in Bad Tolz, Germany, graduating with honors and achieved the rank of Sergeant E-5.

After he left the Army, he returned to Michigan and started to work on his career and his secondary education. He met his wife while singing with his brothers and niece (German=Nichte) in a Gospel quartet. He married at the age of 22 and was the father of 2 children by the age of 26. As he embarked on his career, he first started out by serving an apprenticeship (German=Lehrzeit) at a local machine shop and was later hired at Ford Motor Company in the town he lived in and became a journeyman (German=Meister) tool & die maker (German=Werkzeug- und Formenbauer).

From his childhood and throughout his life, his strong religious beliefs were very important to him. Although he was achieving success at Ford Motor Company, he took a pause from his career and moved his family to Wisconsin to become a Pastor of a small church and worked as a die maker in addition to his work at the church. After a short period of time in Wisconsin, he moved his family to Tennessee to further his education in theology and later returned to Michigan, where he returned to work at Ford Motor Company and served in his local church as a teacher and music minister.

Over the years, he rose through the ranks Ford and reached the top position (Plant Manager) at the facility he worked at, which employed as many as 3000 people. What an amazing accomplishment from his humble beginnings in Kentucky. He was the #1 man at largest employer in his town. He continued his career at Ford for many years and continued to rise through the ranks (German=befördert), which included the Plant Manager position at the Ford Rouge Tool & Die facility and later held an executive position with an office at Ford World Headquarters (known as the Glass House).

The years of long work hours and stress at Ford began to take its toll on him. He left Ford after nearly 15 years in management and took a position as the Director of Engineering Manager at an automotive tier-one supplier in Michigan. After several years with this company, at the age 57, he tried his hand at retirement (German=Pensionierung) but ended up opening his own engineering and manufacturing consulting company and was working just as much as he ever did (commuting from Orlando to Atlanta weekly). Hence, three years after retiring for the first time, he returned to the automotive supplier he had previously worked for and was hired as the CEO. While there, he helped lead the company to significant growth (in excess of 300 million a year in sales). He stayed with the company for 8 years and finally retired at the age of 68 years old.

Over the years in addition to his work in the automotive industry, he always worked in the church and continued his education. He gained a Master’s degree and a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Studies, an Associate’s Degree in Engineering along with advanced studies in Business Administration, Management and Operations.

Having reached the heights of success in his career, when he retired, he simply looked forward to enjoying life. He had been blessed financially and was able to maintain homes in Michigan and in Florida (Florida for the winter months of Michigan and Michigan for the hot summers of Florida). He had the means to travel the world, the time to spend on his hobbies (restoring classic cars and golfing) and could simply relax and enjoy the rewards for his years of labor.

Unfortunately, not so very long after he retired his wife became ill. The illness started off slowly and he sensed something was doing wrong, but was not sure what it was. As his wife became more reclusive (German=zurückgezogen), their travel plans were canceled, their trips to Florida became fewer and farther between, his wife slowly became home-bound and was diagnosed with Dementia.

This man was now in a situation in which all his education, his success, and his financial means were meaningless. None of this mattered or could help his wife, he now was her full-time caregiver (and never complained one time). As her illness progressed, he sought every possible means of getting her help and giving her some quality of life.

Then his partner life who had been with him during the times they didn’t have money to purchase groceries, who cared for his children and had supported him in every facet of life of their life was taken from him after 53 years marriage. At the age of 75, this man found himself lost, lonely and with not much to live for.

He spent a year or so, just trying to survive. He played some golf, spent time with his church buddies and old work colleagues. But nothing could take away his loneliness. Then as fate would have it, he met a very special lady. She also had lost her spouse. She was a beautiful woman around the same age, who shared his love for God, his love of music and she had a special zest for life. Their pasts were similar in many ways. Yep, you guessed it!!! They fell in love and got married. This man found happiness once again. Today he and his wife are traveling the world, they are active in church and ministry, enjoy their time with their friends and family and cherish every moment that life gives them.

This man turns 80 today. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Over the years you have been a son, a brother, a husband, a father, an uncle, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a solider, a pastor, an executive, a caregiver and a friend to so many. But for all of these great things, I thank you most for being my father and my best friend.

Thank you for your unconditional love, your forgiveness, your guidance, your wisdom, your discipline (although I am sure I did need too much of that), for your financial support and bailing me out when I got in to trouble (sorry), thanks for believing in me, listening to me, crying with me, standing by me and most of all……for loving me. It is something very special for children (even as adults) to know that no matter where we are or what we are doing, that we are loved, and you are always there. You gave this to me.

I am so very proud of you and proud to be your son. Oh, and thanks for the name! I know as a child I questioned you and Mom as to why in the world you would name me Cecil (it was not the easiest thing to deal with my school mates). I am honored to be named after you.

So friends, this is a short little story about a man, that happens to be my Dad. I think I did a pretty good job of summarizing 80 years of his life into just over 1300 words. He does have an amazing history and he has so many great stories. It would make a great book. Dad if you write some of the stories and record some of your memories, I will write the book.

April 10th, 1939 was a very special day in history, as a man was born who touched the lives of many and made the world a better place. I wish you all happiest, health and love today and forever. I look forward to celebrating with you at 90.

Oh, on a final note, my Dad and Mom will soon be leaving on a mission trip with their church to minister in word and in song in ROMANIA. Missionary! Really? Come on Dad! Not an easy act to follow.

Love you,

Cecil Jr.

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