FREEHOLD – Bigerton Yemmons “Buddy” Lewis Jr., the last surviving sibling of six brothers who fought in World War II, is being mourned by the Freehold Borough community and remembered for his impact and influence.
Lewis, 93, died at home on Feb. 25.
A lifelong resident of the borough, Lewis and his five brothers – Alexander, Lester, Augustus (Guggy), Donald and Payton – all served in the United States armed forces during World War II.
No family in Freehold Borough sent as many sons to World War II as the Lewis family. Buddy Lewis, the youngest of the brothers, was a member of the U.S. Army, Company A, 1317th General Service Engineer.
The six brothers returned home from the war, but by 2018, Buddy Lewis was the last surviving sibling. Guggy died in 1975 at the age of 64, Payton died in 1982 at the age of 59, Donald died in 1987 at the age of 67, and Lester died in 1992 at the age of 83. The date of death of the oldest son, Alexander, is not known.
In honor and recognition of the family’s service to the country, the pavilion at Veterans Park was named the Lewis Brothers Pavilion on Veterans Day 2018. Lewis attended the ceremony and spoke to those in attendance.
According to his obituary, Lewis had a 37-year career with Monmouth County and retired as a building maintenance supervisor.
He was a lifelong member of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Freehold, where he served as church clerk, steward, trustee, member of the men’s choir, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, Sunday school member and Trustee Emeritus. He was an honorary member of the church’s Missionary Society and a former coach in the Freehold Pop Warner youth football league.
“It wasn’t just his family or his church or his friends who lost something large with Buddy’s passing. It was the whole town,” said Kevin Coyne, who is the borough’s historian and the author of “Marching Home,” a book that chronicles the achievements of six veterans, including Buddy Lewis, who hailed from Freehold.
“He was a force of nature and it’s hard to imagine Freehold without him. He was the last of the six Lewis brothers who served in World War II, more than from any other family in town. I’m happy he was able to see our town honor him with the dedication of the Lewis Brothers Pavilion in Veterans Park, where he spoke so movingly,” Coyne said.
Lewis was predeceased by his wife, Ruth; his parents, Bigerton and Sadie; and seven siblings, five brothers and two sisters. Surviving are a son, Steven B. Lewis; three daughters, Marion A. Sparks (Willie), Patricia L. Mackey (David), and Tracey Reason (Leo); four grandchildren, Kelly L.Guerra (Jesus), David Mackey Jr. (Ailsa), Leossie Reason, and Rachel Thorpe; and five great-grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be made to Bethel A.M.E. Church (Legacy Endowment).