Jeannette family opens their home to those in need
The Lewis family has opened their home, with its lovely gardens, to a varied group of people including newborn babies, single expectant mothers and couples going to the Jeannette High School prom.
Morrison “Moe” Lewis Jr. and his wife, Rosemary, have lived in the Jeannette area their entire lives. Moe is a lifelong citizen of the City of Jeannette, and Rosemary was raised in Spanish Villa.
The Lewises met as young adults and married after Moe completed law school and Rosemary graduated from college. Moe, a graduate of Jeannette High School, attended the University of Pittsburgh for his undergraduate work and law school.
Rosemary was a graduate of Greensburg High School, went to Seton Hill College for one year and completed a degree in sociology at Catholic University.
Upon graduation, Moe opened his law practice in 1962. Rosemary worked as a social worker for Catholic Charities but left that job when the couple started their family. She has remained active with Catholic Charities as a volunteer and also worked with Westmoreland Community Action about four years ago on the crisis hotline.
Both the Lewises are civic minded and involved in the community. For many years, the couple fostered babies who were waiting to be adopted. This was short-term fostering during the adoption wait period. When the Sister's of Charity's Roselia Foundling Asylum and Maternity Hospital closed in 1971, Rosemary said, “We were aware of the need and answered it.”
For more than 20 years, the Lewises welcomed expectant mothers, who would normally have used the services that had been offered by the Sisters of Charity, into their home. Generally the women were in the third pregnancy trimester and stayed with the Lewises until they gave birth.
At the time, the Lewises also had four daughters at home. For her work in this field, Rosemary was honored by the Elliott Company as an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year and also by the organization People Concerned for the Unborn Child.
Rosemary was on the board of directors at Jeannette Hospital and she served for about 15 years on the Jeannette Youth Commission, a volunteer program through the Westmoreland County Juvenile Court.
Both the Lewises are Eucharistic Ministers at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. Rosemary delivers communion to parishioners who cannot get out, and she said, “The people really look forward to you coming. It is a nice ministry.”
Moe still practices law today and has also been very involved with children and the community as well. He served for many years a guardian ad litem (a court appointed child guardian) for Family Court in Westmoreland County.
As an attorney he was the solicitor to the Coroner's Office for many years, worked for the District Attorney's Office during his law career and served on as solicitor for numerous boards and authorities.
Currently, Moe is on the Jeannette School Board and a member of the Jeannette Kiwanis Club. For 22 years he served on the Westmoreland County Community college board and served on the foundation board.
Moe also served on the board of directors for the Jeannette Hospital and the hospital foundation board as well. As a member of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce he organized several large dinners including an event that was attended by Bishop Fulton Sheen.
He met President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter in the same year but at different occasions.
Rosemary is an avid gardener and a tradition has evolved in Jeannette whereby the high school students, rain or shine, come to the Lewis home in their prom finery and have a picture taken in the garden.
Originally, just a few of the neighborhood children had asked if they could come over to have pictures taken, but now it has become quite an event.
Last year, Rosemary broke her leg and Moe said they received so much help from the neighbors.
“We have such good neighbors,” he said. “They did all her flowers and watered them. They watched the house when we were away and they kept the meals coming during the time she was in the rehab hospital. I'm so relieved to have such great neighbors.”
According to Rosemary, the annual prom is a “big project.” It has grown bigger through word-of-mouth advertising by the students.
“A lot of kids just come, because they know they are welcome. Grandparents come. Neighbors stop by with water, snacks and treats,” Rosemary said.
“We see so many people that we haven't seen in years. It's like old home week,” Moe said.
Last year, the Lewises grandson Connor VanDyke, currently a senior at Jeannette High School, was one of the prom-goers. Connor's participation in the event made it even more special for his grandparents, although according to Moe he had to do without Connor to assist him in directing traffic.
The Lewises are parents of four daughters. Bridget, and husband Terry Broderick, live in Washington, Pa. with their children, Megan, Allison and Ryan. Daughter Diane, and husband Neil Ebner, reside in Wexford with children Rachel, Amanda, Holly and Nicole. Daughter Karen, and husband Ed Primm, reside in Mt. Lebanon with children Isabella and Chase, and youngest daughter Susan, and her husband Michael McFarland, reside in Jeannette with children Connor and Olivia VanDyke and Michaela and Riley McFarland.
Those interested in becoming active in the community or being an avid gardener should get to know neighbors Moe and Rosemary Lewis.
Editor's note: Meet Your Neighbors is a recurring feature in The Jeannette Spirit. If you know of a neighbor with an interesting life story to tell, someone who deserves some recognition for volunteer work, a resident with a special talent or an avid collector who would like to be featured, call the Spirit at 724-838-5154 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margie Stanislaw is a freelance writer.