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Campbell veteran brought cheer, beer to troops

CAMPBELL — Edward Lewis Sr. likely was the post popular and protected soldier in his Army unit while serving in Korea in the early 1950s.

That’s because Lewis was the beer distributor for Headquarter Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry — bringing cases of Budweiser weekly to the troops.

Lewis, now 94, was born in Wooster, but graduated from North High School in Youngstown in 1947. He worked at the Isaly’s production plant on Mahoning Avenue for one year and then started working for Truscon Steel Corp.

He was drafted into the Army in December 1950 and attended basic training at Camp Breckenridge, Ky., before being sent to Japan in May 1951. He spent a month in Japan before being shipped to Korea, where he spent a little over a year before being honorably discharged from Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania as a corporal in the summer of 1952.

“I couldn’t believe I was there,” Lewis said of Korea.

His older brother, Lester, joined the Navy and served during World War II. His younger brother, Benny, also was drafted into the Army, but not until after Lewis returned home.

His daughter, Marlene, with whom Lewis lives, said her dad’s memory is not as sharp as it used to be, and he is almost completely deaf. She uses pen and paper to communicate with him — a method used for an interview with Lewis last week about his military service.

Marlene Lewis said her dad’s original military papers were partially burned in a fire, but he got replacement ones that show he worked as a platoon clerk at the Army headquarters in Korea.

“He would send records of living, wounded and deceased soldiers to headquarters for the four companies — A,B,C and D — in his battalion. He did some filing and stayed in the office,” Marlene Lewis said.

However, Lewis also was the driver for his unit’s chaplain and later became the Budweiser distributor. He said he would deliver 50 cases every week — a route that spanned several miles and took him several hours. Each soldier got four beers a week.

“The other soldiers gave me cigarettes for extra beers, but I didn’t smoke,” Lewis said.

He would trade the cigarettes for other items such as food.

After his release from the military, Lewis returned to Truscon Steel, where he remained five more years. It was after his discharge that he met his wife, Angela Porfilio.

“Dad liked to dance and he and his friend would go to the Idora Park ballroom every week. He would pick up my mother and her cousin at the bus stop and take them, but it took a year before they actually spoke,” Marlene Lewis recalled. “Ironically, they first spoke at a dance at the church by the Isaly’s store. It wasn’t even at Idora.”

The couple was married May 22, 1954, and they had four children. Marlene is the youngest.

After working for the steel company, Lewis went into the building trades and spent 12 years at Rocco Fortunato Construction. He worked for various construction companies and retired from Adolph Johnson & Sons Co. after 13 years.

“I built our house,” Lewis said about the tidy ranch home on Carlson Avenue in Campbell.

He and Angela were snowbirds after Angela retired from Northside Hospital. They spent their winters in Las Vegas because two of their children lived there. Lewis returned to Campbell permanently 16 years ago after Angela died.

Marlene said her father never really talked about his military service when she and her siblings were growing up, but they would hear an occasional story and knew he served in Korea.

“He didn’t think he deserved to be honored because he never saw battle. But you could tell it was important to him,” she said.

Several years ago, Campbell started a military banner program that honored veterans with banners hung from streetlights around the city. She bought him one, and he smiled when she brought it out.

“He deserves the recognition like everyone else,” she said.

mreichert@tribtoday.com

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