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Obituary for Merle J. Lewis

Merle J. Lewis, 97, of La Crosse WI passed away Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at Bethany St Joseph Nursing Home in La Crosse. He was born November 1, 1924 in Dimondale, Michigan to Clyde and Gertrude (Peterson) Lewis. Merle grew up in rural Eaton County in Michigan graduating in 1942 from Dimondale High School. Merle was a decorated Army Staff Sergeant serving in the Asiatic Pacific Theater during World War II. He was stationed in Guam and helped repair airplanes that had been damaged in battle. Shortly after his honorable discharge in February of 1946 Merle met his future wife. Ruth and a friend were walking and Merle and a friend were riding around. Both knew Ruth's friend and offered the girls a ride. They accepted and this led to a 1949 marriage that lasted 66 years. The couple moved several times in their early marriage due to Merle's job. Four children were born, each in a different state. The couple settled in Morrison IL where they lived for 25 years raising their family. Merle graduated with high honors from Michigan State University in 1950 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was an avid Spartan fan and loved watching basketball and football, especially when they won national championships. After graduating, Merle started and ended his career with General Electric. He moved several times working at GE plants in Bridgeport CT, Louisville KT and lastly Morrison IL. He was an accomplished engineer and problem solver for the Appliance Control Division of GE. He, along with his colleagues were awarded four patents. He loved camping, traveling and living by the water. Merle, who often mentioned that he thought about becoming an architect instead of an engineer, designed and built most of an A-frame cabin on Crystal Lake near Frankfort MI that his family enjoyed for many years. Besides Crystal Lake, Merle's favorite places were Hawaii where the couple resided for an extended time after retiring, the South Texas Gulf Coast, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Lake Superior. Merle, much like his wife Ruth, had a quiet personality but first and foremost they were dedicated to supporting their children in whatever activity they were involved in and were always there to support them in times of need. Survivors include his son John (Heidi) Lewis of Sarasota FL, his daughters Janet (Rolland) Renkes of Morrison IL and Julie (Terry) Sykes of DeSoto WI; eight grandchildren, Matthew (Holly) Lewis, Kristina (Cris) Pellegrino, Lewie Renkes, Mitch (Patti) Renkes, Tara (Luke) Jambois, Skip (Tiana) Sykes, Jason (Anita) Houzenga and Cheryl Olson; thirteen great-grandchildren, Erika, Taylor, Jacob, Collin and Caitlin Renkes, Tristin Olson, Sierra Houzenga, Luke, Ava and Amedi Jambois, Takoda Sykes and Lucy and Dylan Pellegrino and great-grand-dog Miller. Merle was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Carl and Caryl Lewis; his wife Ruth, and his daughter Diane Houzenga. Graveside services will be held at a later date at Limestone Township Cemetery in Michigan. Memorials may be made to Disabled American Veterans, a cause Merle was a lifelong supporter of.