Ira Lewis

Ira Lewis, U.S. Coast Guard retired, sits for a portrait under a live oak tree at Harkers Island Elementary School Aug. 18, 2018, during Coast Guard Appreciation Day and his 100th birthday celebration. (Dylan Ray photo)

Editor's note: This article was last updated Jan. 31 at 11:47 a.m.

HARKERS ISLAND — Chief Ira Lewis, Harkers Island’s oldest resident and the state’s oldest U.S. Coast Guard member, died Thursday at the age of 101.

His funeral service is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Free Grace Wesleyan Church on Harkers Island with Pastor Curtis W. Going and Pastor Clint Nelson officiating.  Burial with military honors will follow at the Lewis family cemetery on Harkers Island.

A full obituary for Chief Lewis will be on Page 3A of the Sunday, Feb. 2 edition of the Carteret County News-Times.

He was hailed Thursday night as a staunch supporter of the Coast Guard and the Down East community.

“The Coast Guard’s deep history Down East has been kept alive through Ira Lewis’ life of service and his lifelong commitment to the USCG. For us he was the USCG personified,” said Karen Amspacher, executive director of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center.

“…We are determined to keep his story — and our community’s story — ongoing. His legacy will be inspiring another generation of families who share their connections to the USCG and one another, past-present-future,” she continued.

Chief Lewis joined the Coast Guard in 1938 and served 21 years, his entire career, on the south shore of Long Island, N.Y., including a role as officer-in-charge at Montauk Point Lighthouse from Feb. 17, 1957, until he retired in August 1959.

Retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Todd Nelson of Harkers Island knew Chief Lewis all his life.

When Cmdr. Nelson visited Montauk Point Lighthouse, he saw a plaque with Chief Lewis’ name and said he was astounded it was the same man he knew from Carteret County.

“He’s a local legend up there,” Mr. Nelson said. “He’s always been there and was proud of his service.”

Upon retirement, Chief Lewis came back to Harkers Island, where he was often seen garbed in his Coast Guard uniform and remained an active member of the community. 

In 2003, Chief Lewis initiated the Harkers Island Veterans Memorial, now located at Harkers Island Elementary School, and served as advisor to the N.C. Maritime Museum on the construction of a Life Saving Service rowing boat.

County historian Rodney Kemp was also involved in Chief Lewis’ 100th birthday celebration in August 2018.

“I’m so honored we did that for him,” Mr. Kemp said. “It was one of the greatest things I was honored to participate in.”

Mr. Kemp also noted Chief Lewis’ legacy of service.

“The man remembered everything he ever did in the Coast Guard,” Mr. Kemp said. “He knew the sound in New York, as well as he did the waters in Carteret County.”

As a resident of Harkers Island, Chief Lewis was a member of the Carteret County Harbor Committee, which secured the Refuge Harbor at the west end of Harkers Island for commercial fishermen, and a member of the ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) club, a community group for veterans.

In 2013, Chief Lewis was a guest speaker at The Promise Land Society’s first festival. That same year, he received the state’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award and the Resolution of Appreciation Award from the board of directors of Military Affairs.

The same year he also received a Coast Guard medallion and a letter of recognition of his service on his 95th birthday.

In 2017, he was recognized as oldest U.S. Coast Guard retiree in attendance at a Coast Guard Gold Medal Ceremony at the Core Sound Museum.

Carteret County commissioners designated Aug. 2, 2018, as Ira Lewis Day.

Newport Mayor and retired Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Barber had a close relationship with Chief Lewis.

“He was a good friend of mine,” Mayor Barber said Thursday night. “I looked up to him as a mentor ... he was looked up to by a bunch of young ‘Coasties.’ He will be greatly missed by the Coast Guard community.”

Retired Coast Guard Vice Adm. Dean Lee said Thursday night that Chief Lewis was a man Harkers Island could be proud of.

“Mr. Ira Lewis was the kind of guy we would all aspire to be,” he said. “He served his country and then went on to serve his community in the same fashion.”

Though Vice Adm. Lee said many would mourn for Chief Lewis, he would be fondly remembered.

“We will all miss him, but he had a good run and when he crossed the finish line, we all know he is with the good Lord.”

Noe Funeral Service Inc. of Beaufort is handling the arrangements. 

Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 225; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.

Contact Megan Soult at 252-726-7081, ext. 228; email megan.soult@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @meganCCNT.

(Previous report)

HARKERS ISLAND — Chief Ira Lewis, Harkers Island’s oldest resident and retired U.S. Coast Guard member, died Thursday at the age of 101.

His funeral service is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Free Grace Wesleyan Church on Harkers Island with Pastor Curtis W. Going and Pastor Clint Nelson officiating.  Burial with military honors will follow at the Lewis family cemetery on Harkers Island.

Mr. Lewis joined the Coast Guard in 1938 and served 21 years on the south shore of Long Island, N.Y.

Mr. Lewis is survived by his daughter, Margaret Ann Rose and her husband Leslie; son, Philip Lewis and his wife Jean; grandchildren, Bruce Kevin Lewis and his wife Lori, Tracy L. Lewis, Tara Guthrie, Jonathan Brett Rose and his wife Cathy and Joan O’Neal and her husband James D.; great-grandchildren, Maggie Diane Lewis, Kevin Ian Lewis, Tracy Ethan Lewis, Jonathan Michael Rose and his wife Rebecca, Christopher Ryan Rose, Bertley Paul Willis and Contessa Ann Willis; great-great-grandson, Dawson Cole Rose; and many nieces and nephews.

Noe Funeral Service Inc. of Beaufort is handling the arrangements. 

(1) comment

CARTERETISCORRUPT

Rest well Chief, and thank you for your service to our country. Thank you.

Welcome to the discussion.

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