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Lewis Frederick Leber ’50

A picture of Lewis Leber

Lewis Frederick Leber ’50, January 17, 2012, in Seattle, Washington. Lewis grew up in Seattle with brothers Bruce E. Leber ’48 and Ralph Ted Leber ’44. “We used to walk down to the university [of Washington] on Saturdays when they had movies for the kids, with all kinds of science and exploring. We would watch pictures of Admiral Byrd going to the Antarctic. Every Saturday there was something different and unusual and new,” Lewis said in an interview in 2006. Their father ran his own business, Ralph Leber Company, selling newspaper, engraving, and printing supplies; Lewis and his brothers worked at the company. During World War II, when all other employees were being drafted and sent off to the armed services, teenager Lewis learned to run roller mills and to grind ink, and made millions of pounds of paint for use as camouflage. At Reed, he majored in chemistry—which would prove to be a boon to his 58-year career with the Leber Ink Company in Tukwila, Washington, and his later work as vintner. He also met Mary Jean Piper ’50. “I was drafted in May of ’51, and went to basic. Then I came back to Seattle. Mary and I had been dating. I remember going down to Portland, and I had an engagement ring for her. I had been assigned to go overseas, and I wanted to ask her to marry me.” They married in 1951, and Lewis received a commendation ribbon for his service with the chemical corps in Korea. Lewis and Mary built a home on Mercer Island, Washington, in 1955. They raised a family of four—a daughter and three sons. They traveled to nearly every state in the U.S. and abroad—for business, for pleasure, and to stay connected to family and friends. Lewis read extensively and broadly. For recreation, he learned to crew for sailboat races with friend and expert sailor George Gunby ’51. Sailing led to connections with those who would join Lewis as charter members of the Washington Association of Vintners. “We bought five acres over in eastern Washington and planted the first vineyard of vinifera grapes in the state of Washington. We didn’t make lots of money, but we became the foundation of the Columbia Winery.” He is remembered for his honesty and concern for others, his feisty wit and charm, his skill in conversation and in investment, and his prowess as a cook and pie maker. Survivors include Mary, his children and five grandchildren, and his brother, Ted.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2012

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