Larry and Marge Lewis, like many in Downey, epitomize the American Dream.Each has received a solid education, Larry earning civil engineering and MBA degrees from USC, and Marge coming out of Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood with a history and elementary education degree. Larry would go on and rack up more than 37 years service with the Los Angeles Department of Public Works until his retirement in 1995, while Marge (her full first name: Margery) would teach second grade in Rosemead for eight years. They had married in June of 1964, the year they moved to Downey. Today in their retirement years, their house in Downey is the setting to regular get-togethers with their three daughters and their husbands, as well as their two sons and their wives, and their grandchildren now numbering seven, the eldest 10 years old and the youngest a mere three weeks old. The eldest daughter is a chemist living in Long Beach, a second daughter lives in Fullerton and is a high school teacher while a third daughter works as a freelance editor in Thousand Oaks. One son is a physical therapist in Long Beach; the other son is a Redondo Beach businessman. Much to the benefit of the community, Larry and Marge haven't ceased to be useful and productive. A longtime member of the Downey Symphonic Society, Larry is in his sixth consecutive year as its president and it looks like the job is his for as long as he wants it. He says, "My criteria for doing something is, first, it's got to be worthwhile and, second, I have to enjoy it. God didn't put me here to be miserable." Typical of his other service affiliations, he also has a long service history with the Downey YMCA board, the Unified Financial Credit Union in Whittier, David Wilson & Associates (the civil engineering support group at USC), is currently serving as committee chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and is a 20-year member of Kiwanis. As well Marge has always been active in the community particularly with the Assistance League of Downey: she is at present in charge of Operation School Bell. She has also been associated with PTA H.E.L.P.S. for 20 years, and is its current treasurer. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church has been their spiritual base from day one; Larry is the longest-serving member of the Parish Finance Council. Not surprisingly, both have been through the chairs of practically every service club they've joined. Why their involvement with music in Downey? From age 7 Larry took violin lessons till he was about 14 or so, "until other interests took over." ("I enjoyed the music but not the practice"). He was part of the orchestra in elementary and junior high. One way Larry relaxes is listen to classical music, favoring Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Rossini. Marge took piano lessons as a youth and has since high school enjoyed singing in choral groups. In addition to her longtime membership with the Society's fund-raising arm, the Downey Symphony Guild, Marge has been warbling with the Bellflower Civic Chorus for 20 years. They point, though, to their eldest Long Beach-based 10-year old granddaughter as the real musical talent. They say her musical genes come from her dad's side of the family because of its strong musical tradition. The child has so far shown steady progress with the (shades of grandpa) violin. Larry's sports activities in high school centered around cross country, football and tennis. Of the latter, he says: "I had a good forehand, a weak backhand, a great first serve that didn't go in, and a slow second serve, which my tennis opponent of course took advantage of." "I was a fantastic bridge player, though," he says, permitting himself a bit of immodesty. "There was a time when I competed in L. A. bridge tournaments." Today, bicycling down from Florence Avenue to Carson Street along the 605 freeway with a few buddies is a Tuesday and Friday morning ritual, highlighted by coffee and a hearty breakfast at the Heartwell Golf Course coffee shop. Of Russian descent (his grandpa came from the Lake Baiku area), Larry says he enjoys "anything and everything" Marge cooks, but at the end of the day "I'm really a meat-and-potatoes guy." Especially with wine. Marge is of Irish and German ancestry, and is a frequent visitor to the city library. She prefers works of fiction and biography by such authors as Eudora Welty, Joan Didion, and Joyce Carol Oates. More and more, Larry's reading has focused on business literature (Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, etc.). Their travels have included trips to Europe a number of times and a package tour to China (the Yangtze, Three Gorges Dam, etc.) two years ago. An annual trip to Maui is an invigorating part of their lives. The witty, well-informed, pragmatic Lester Lawrence Lewis (Larry's full name) doesn't lack for opinions. His comment on downtown redevelopment, reflecting his engineering background: "If change has to occur, it's got to be effected rationally. It's got to be lucid and consistent with zoning [guidelines] and the concerns of the community." On physical reality: "This world couldn't have happened by chance. There's something bigger than us. Thus I believe in a prime mover. If we try to do good with our gifts, our time, and so on, and not hurt others, this is the constructive way to go." "We've been very, very fortunate," he says. "I've done many good things in my life, but the smartest thing I did was marrying Marge."
********** Published: July 10, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 12