Where do we start in recounting the life of a husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, a friend to many and a lover of life?
This short sketch and remembrance that I will share with you, on behalf of all of us who were closest to him and loved him dearly will reveal only a fragment of a soul who was unassuming, who cared for his family, his people and about his country.
One of his most ardent desires and hopes, as he struggled with the disease that robbed him of his independence, was to get well enough to be able to return to Belize for whatever period he could be here, to be among his people and to continue to serve Belize in whatever way he could.
He is here with us, in spirit, this morning.
Charles Victor Lewis, also known as Victor, or Vic, as his wife would fondly call him, was the second of three children born to Charles Randolph Lewis and his wife, Gwendolyn Rubina Lewis nee Reynolds, on September 16, 1939, in Crooked Tree Village. However, all his official documents had his birthdate as September 19, 1939. Victor would often fondly share stories about his relationship with his Dad whom he loved so much; one such anecdote was that of the parent who had registered his birth incorrectly and robbed him of three days of his life by having his birthday recorded three days later than the day he was actually born; stories about wearing his Dad’s shoes when there were special occasions to attend because as a growing boy there was not enough money to buy special shoes for everyone; of his Dad coming to the Bliss Institute to check on him at night to make sure he was there studying and not hanging out somewhere with girlfriends. These stories reflected the closeness and love in which he grew.
His formal education took place here at Ebenezer, The Belize Technical College, (where he excelled in Mathematics and Physics, subjects about which he was passionate from boyhood), Stout State College in the U.S.A., Reyerson Polytechnical Institute in Canada, the University of New Brunswick in Canada, the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in England, and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where he lived and worked for 15 years, from 1981 until he returned home in 1995.
His industry, proficiency and love of learning made him one of Belize’s most accomplished and professional engineers in the electrical field, with skills that ranged from those of a Master Wireman to a specialist in Power Engineering, with strengths and aptitudes in many of the related fields of engineering to which he contributed, enthusiastically, whenever he was given the opportunity. Staying current in his field was one of his passions, so reading and research continued, even during his illness. He even completed a Master’s degree in Management, graduating in 1994, at the tender age of 55, with his younger daughter.
Victor started his service to Belize as an employee with the Belize Estate & Produce Company before he was 16 years old, and except for periods of study abroad, he gave Belize forty-six years of dedicated service. His last posting was as a Commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission, when serious health concerns forced him to travel to Canada for critical medical care which culminated with his passing two weeks ago.
Victor enjoyed life and found fulfilment in whatever he did. As a wireman back in the fifties at Belize Electricity Limited, the days of non-ending power failures and blackouts, Victor could be seen climbing lampposts in the city, his tools in the belt strapped around his waist, making sure that power had been disconnected before attacking the recalcitrant wires that needed to be repaired in order to restore electricity to the affected homes and businesses; now that was a feat. Today, men in mechanically propelled buckets attached to long metal arms work on lampposts without too much sweat.
He was an avid lover of sports and was able to give a good account of himself on the football and cricket fields and with a table tennis racket.
He loved and supported his entire family in every way and played a significant role in helping his younger brother, Ronnie, to become one of Belize’s master teachers of Mathematics and Physics.
One constant for Victor throughout and until the end of his life, was perpetual productive motion. He learned plumbing, electrical, and mechanical skills and carpentry at the Belize Technical College. His dad was also skilled in carpentry and Victor learnt much from him, adding new skills along the way. He was a teacher at heart, and set demanding standards for and had high expectations of his children and those he mentored, as employees or as students, and there were many. He took the time to teach his son Omari and daughter Micere to use tools you will now find in both their homes; hand and power tools, which they are both adept at manipulating. Victor later used these skills to design and then, with his own hands, to build his home in Belize City. He also used these skills to enhance his home during the fifteen years he spent living and working in Canada. I can recall my siblings reporting that Dad told the contractors to leave, after completing the basic parts of his home in Canada. He had already planned to complete the inside with his family. He taught us early to put our hands to work.
When he returned to Belize in 1995, he immediately resumed refurbishing his family home on Baymen Avenue. He would often say to me that relaxation is a change of activity. My view was that he was always working, busy doing something and not relaxing at all. Every Saturday he would be downstairs working at something while at the same time giving a young person the opportunity to earn a living.
There were so many wonderful parts to Victor; he was a generous man. As a child, I can remember him driving down Freetown Road and handing out five-dollar bills to people he met on the street, people he felt needed some help. He was committed to giving back to a country that he felt had afforded him great opportunities to establish himself as a professional with the capacity to create a comfortable life for his family.
In his later years, he was often referred to as “Dads”, “Gramps” or “Granddad” by young men who would ask him for a dollar or two; he almost always gave it to them, but not before he had given them a lecture or advice about being responsible, industrious, and/or refraining from engaging in self-destructive behaviors. It was interesting that most of these young men not only kept coming back to see him, but would participate in the discourse with him, whatever it was. He was extremely patriotic when it came to supporting all things Belizean, while at the same time welcoming everyone into his world.
He was a family man. He was very happy to visit with his cousins like Mrs. Elaine Middleton and Patrick Reynolds. He would talk with them for hours. These talks meant so much to him even if they interrupted our father-daughter time. He would also instruct me to go to his work on Magazine Road after school just to be with him but not to interrupt his work. That was his fatherly way of keeping his first daughter away from the boys.
He was very happy to know that I had met and married Hugh Williams, Sr., and that Charles Omari met and married Trina Lesiuk. Micere, his youngest and most stubborn child, is living life on her own terms and he was happy about that too. He also experienced the joy of spoiling his grandchildren. One common statement from all his children to his grandchildren was, “I don’t know this man who is your grandfather; he was never this easy on us.”
Victor’s love for his wife, Corinth, was absolute and unconditional and he was very protective of her. He would get up at five in the morning, drive her from Belize City to her job in Belmopan and then take the six a.m. bus back to Belize City from Belmopan to get to his job here. In the evening, when her itinerary at the University required that she spend the night in Belmopan, he would be back on the bus to spend the night there with her and the next morning he could be seen heading back to Belize City. Victor took his last quiet breath with his head snuggled in the crook of her arms, a fitting tribute to the love they shared.
During his later years he and his wife, Corinth, took Christmas vacations with all his children, grandchildren, great grandchild, his daughter-in-law, Trina, and his grandson-in law, Paul. I know he was very grateful for the joy he was able to experience from those encounters.
Victor’s eldest niece, Elizabeth, wrote about her uncle: “Uncle Vic was loved by us, his niece and his nephews, very much. He was always on the move, very energetic. I enjoyed ironing or mending his suits whenever his wife would go on study leave or to a conference. He often assisted his nephews with odd jobs. He would also take the time to discuss life-matters with and mentoring them. My Mom, his sister, used to say that she and her brothers, Victor and Ronnie, had lots of happy times in their childhood even though they were not rich. Victor was the strategist of the family, someone who was resourceful and the person on whom the family could rely to find a solution to problems, when challenges arose”.
Victor was a deeply spiritual man. He read both his Holy Bible and his Holy Qu’ran every night and his words to his children before he hung up the phone, at the end of every telephone conversation, were: “Daughter/Son, please read your Bible and your Qu’ran, or whatever you use as a source of spiritual strength, and always remember God”.
As I close this tribute to the life of Charles Victor Lewis, beloved husband, brother, uncle, father, father-in-law, grandfather, and cousin to all the extended members of his biological family and a friend to a multitude of people whose paths he has crossed in the 77 years of his life here on planet earth, the family would like to end rather than start with a chronicle of his lineage:
Victor is predeceased by his parents, Charles Randolph Lewis and Gwendolyn Rubina Lewis; his sister Greta Rubina Jenkins nee Lewis and one adopted nephew, Paul Israel Gibson.
He is survived by his partner, friend and soul-mate of 53 years, Corinth Morter-Lewis; his three children: Julie-Ann Victoria Lewis-Williams, Charles Omari Lewis and Micere Idolly Lewis-Keels; his brother, Ronald Randolph Lewis; his six grandchildren, who love him dearly: Gilmore Michael Williams, Phylicia Arianne Williams, Hugh Edmond Charles Williams, Jr., Charles Nubian Lewis, Conor Khaalid Lewis, and Davu Micah Keels, and one great grandson, Paul Andrew Phillips, Jr. Victor had a special love and place in his heart for each one of us.
He is also survived by two nieces and six nephews: Gwendolyn Elizabeth Jenkins, Jacqueline Lewis Pandy Faber, Ian Stanley Jenkins, Gordon Lawrence Jenkins and Denton Clifford Jenkins, Vincent Lewis, Zain Lewis and Khalil Lewis. There are also many, many cousins who make up his extended family and a multitude of friends who are all a part of his world.
Charles Victor Lewis was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to engineering in the country of Belize by The Association of Professional Engineers of Belize; this award was given to him at his funeral.
He will be missed by all who knew him and forever remembered by those who loved him. The EPITAPH we have inscribed on the Urn containing his remains reads:
CHARLES VICTOR LEWIS
Born 19th September 1939 – Died 6th August 2017
ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Thanks be to God.