On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, Joseph E. Lewczak (known as “Joe” to many and “Hon” to his beloved wife Shirley) passed away in Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, PA at the age of 87, surrounded by his loving family.
Joe was born in Newark, NJ in 1934, the son of the late John (Jan) and Emily (Pepek) Lewczak, owners of the famed Newark institution Emily’s Bar and John’s Tavern, located at 249 Ferry Street. Growing up, Joe enjoyed baseball, bowling, and hanging at the neighborhood drug store. He attended Newark’s East Side High School, where he met the love of his life, Shirley M. (Fitzsimmons) Lewczak who, as legend has it, asked Joe out on their first date. The East Side High Yearbook noted that Joe’s “talents are of the more silent type,” which was both accurate and prophetic. He was a man of few words, but when he spoke, it was important to listen.
Joe started work at his dream job shortly after school, working his way up to become a purchaser of raw materials and inventory for Benjamin Moore & Co. in Newark, where he happily remained for over 45 years. He was extremely proud of his long service with and dedication to the company and was sure to chastise anyone using any inferior paints for their interior or exterior painting or staining needs (there is some notable truth to the rumor that Shirley once purchased stock in Sherwin-Williams Company and Joe never forgave her for that transgression).
After a whirlwind romance, Joe and Shirley were married in 1955 and honeymooned in sunny Florida. Their marriage and love were timeless. In an age where staying married itself is an accomplishment, a loving relationship for over 66 years is one for the record books. Joe purchased his pride and joy that same year, a coral and gray Chevrolet Bel Air, which sadly did not last as long as the marriage, having been lost in one of the great Passaic River floods of that era.
Joe proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy for over six years, first in the Naval Reserve and then in active duty. Joe and Shirley eventually found their way to the suburbs where, in East Brunswick, NJ, they raised two beautiful and successful children – daughter Sharon Lewczak Marchu and son Joseph Lewczak. During this time, Joe enjoyed coaching his son’s little league team (Joe was a great coach but his son was a middling second baseman and sometimes catcher, which Joe took in easy stride), bowling (even though the sport is likely single-handedly responsible for what became a bad lower back for the rest of his life), rooting for the NY Yankees, and spending many wonderful summers in Seaside Heights, NJ, where he was an ardent fan of body surfing, the Italian Sausage Sandwich at Midway Steak House, and pizza at Three Brothers Pizza.
After their children were married and retirement beckoned, Joe and Shirley wandered the country for a bit, living first in Effort, PA, then in Oro Valley, AZ, and finally settling in Lebanon, PA. During retirement, Joe enjoyed lots of golf (both playing and watching), poker of odd varieties with his Tuesday afternoon Poker Club, watching HGTV and random action movies, imbibing in the “occasional” beer or rum, and Diet Coke, and spending quality time with Shirley. He also became a prolific collector of large quantities of baseball hats, golf balls, toilet paper, paper towels, and old paid bills and appliance manuals (some dating back as far as 1973 from the Two Guys in East Brunswick). Joe had an uncanny ability to create nicknames for those he loved along with an inexplicable love of oddball songs from the 40s and 50s. One particular melodic fascination was with Ferdinand the Bull, written by Albert Hay Malotte and Larry Morey to promote Walt Disney’s animated short of the same name, even though he could only remember part of one chorus.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter Sharon, of Harrisburg PA, and his son Joseph along with his wife Anne DiGiovanni, of Santa Monica, CA. Joe is also survived by: brother-in-law Kenneth Fitzsimmons and his wife Elaine; nieces and nephews William Fitzsimmons, Karen Adamonis, Kenneth, Lee, Dennis and Song Fitzsimmons, and Janice O’Shaughnessy; along with countless friends, neighbors, and admirers who enjoyed his quick wit, hearty smile, and deep blue eyes. Joe was predeceased by his sister, Patricia Robak.
A private and personal service will be held for the immediate family only. Memorial donations may be made in Joe’s name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through this link: https://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/GiftFunds/GiftFunds?px=7207163&pg=personal&fr_id=39300 .