Reginald Lewis, Canada’s oldest Bnai Brith member, dies at 98

Reginald Lewis, one of Montreal’s first Jewish optometrists, a jazz musician and the man believed to be the oldest living member of Bnai Brith Canada, died March 27 at 98.

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“I was saddened to learn of Reggie’s passing,” said Allan Adel, national chair of the B’nai Brith League League for Human Rights. “He was a fine gentleman and an exemplary and devoted member and leader of B’nai Brith and Mount Royal Lodge. I will remember him always as a warm and friendly person and fellow volunteer who exemplified the motto of B’nai Brith, ‘people helping people.’”

The Canadian Jewish Tribune reported that 600 attended Lewis’s funeral and noted that it was “something quite uncommon for a gentleman who was close to a century old.”

Lewis was from a long-lived family. His mother died at 105 and retired as her son’s secretary at 88. Lewis, himself, worked until his 90s.

Grandson Shawn Lewis said at the funeral that, “It’s amazing that, having lived almost a century, he thought life was short. But I think it’s more a testament to the type of life he led.”

Lewis was an accomplished jazz pianist who performed with jazz greats like Oscar Peterson and Maynard Ferguson. He once played before the Queen of England. In 1933, the Canadian Jewish Chronicle reported a performance by Reggie Lewis and His Orchestra at the Montefiore Hebrew Orphans Home.

The YMHA Beacon of Montreal said in March 1936 that the orchestra was to be the featured performer at the "Gala Intermediate Review Dance" in the “Y” Ballroom.

He was a past president of the Mount Royal Lodge and the Eastern Regional Council of Bnai Brith in Canada.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Follow the Eulogizer on Twitter @TheEulogizer

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