ROCKVILLE, MD—Benjamin Anzil Lew died peacefully on Wednesday May 26, 2021 at the age of 86.
He was born September 26, 1934 in Ciechanowiec, Poland, youngest child of Sonia Wiadro Lew and Irving Lew. In July of 1939, the family fled the Holocaust on one of the last boats out of Europe, emigrating to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where the Wiadro family was already established.
Fitchburg was a rough town in those days, especially for poor immigrant families, and he quickly learned to use his fists to defend himself. He told stories of how his mother would cut his hair by putting a bowl on his head and then he’d have to fight his way through the next several weeks. His summary of his youth was that many of the people in his high school ended up in prison or dead.
Ben was known as “Anzil”—a name he hated—until one day as a boy he happened to see his birth certificate and say, “Wait, my name is actually Benjamin?” After that, he was never Anzil again, he was Ben Lew—said as nearly one word.
Ben Lew learned to play cards at home, where his mother earned grocery money in nickels and dimes at card games around the table. Soon he was himself playing cards for money and it was how he earned the money to go to college. In the summers he worked in the Catskills, waiting tables and playing poker, and in the winters he went to Boston University for two years and then to the University of Miami, from where he graduated amidst his fraternity brothers, who remained his lifelong friends.
He served in the U.S. army in Italy in the later 1950’s, and then met and married Elinor (Hedy) Plotkin in 1963. Hedy and Ben had three children together and were married for 17 years. Ben worked as an apparel salesman selling swimwear, at which he was quite successful. In 1978, the family relocated from Newton, MA to Palos Verdes, CA. After a divorce and a move back to Boston, Ben met and married Susan Krantz, to whom he was married from 1984 to 1992. In 1993, Ben retired from the apparel business and moved to Boca Raton, FL, where he spent a happy 25 years playing tennis every morning and contract bridge every afternoon. For many years he organized tennis games for 200 people. Among his hundreds of friends, John Murray and Paul Wilkening were his tennis partners and best buddies, with whom he shared a lot of years and many laughs.
Boca Ben Lew was a warm and loving father to his three children, who were always the light of his life. He was a big teddy bear who loved to hug and kiss the people he loved and was known far and wide for his big, booming voice—always full of laughter and jokes. People loved to see him coming. His very favorite jokes were on himself. For a sample, if he were to introduce one of his kids and have someone say, “Oh, isn’t she a smart one,”— his daughter might reply, “Thank you very much. Any smarts come from my mother.” Ben would roar with delight.
Ben Lew taught his children what it meant to be loved unconditionally and to find the joy in giving. It was well known that Ben Lew would give you the shirt off his back, and this is only partially figurative. Certainly he would give you the food off his plate, and he would drop everything to drive anyone to the airport at any hour of the day. (However, driving with Ben Lew was a terrifying business and not recommended for the faint-of-heart.)
Our dear Ben Lew is predeceased by his parents, his sister Tobie (who died in infancy), his brother Abram Lew, his sister-in-law Gerie Zide Lew, and his niece Donna Lew-Rouleau. He is survived by his children, Jodi Lew-Smith and her husband Michael of Hardwick, VT; his daughter Marci Lew of Durham, NC; his son Bryan Lew of Rockville, MD; his grandchildren Solomon Lew, Clara Lew-Smith, Elijah Lew-Smith, and Avery Lew; and his nephew Barry Lew and wife Ruthe of Falmouth, MA.
Funeral arrangements are by Sagel Bloomfield Danzansky Goldberg Funeral Care Inc. of Rockville, MD
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