Modified: May 20, 2019 3:51pm
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined today by Commissioner of Personnel Timothy Hogues, family members and many friends of Mr. Stephan Lewy, and staff from the Montabaur Heights Apartments in Clarence as he recognized Mr. Lewy as Erie County’s “Senior of the Year” for 2019. An author, lecturer, and presenter for the Erie County Department of Senior Services’ University Express program, Mr. Lewy is a Holocaust survivor and U.S. Army veteran, now retired after a lengthy career in the hospitality industry. He also shares his personal story with schoolchildren around Erie County, with a presentation highlighting the consequences of hatred.
“Mr. Lewy is a tremendous example of a person who has overcome significant challenges in their life and now continues to give back to the community. He has lived through events that most of us only know through history books, and has seen both the best and worst of what humankind is capable of. Despite that, he has lived a life that is full and now enjoys a retirement that includes telling his story as a warning of what can happen if good people do not act,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “His valor and volunteerism are to be celebrated, and our community is a better place thanks to him. Mr. Lewy embodies the qualities that make a Senior of the Year unique, and it is an honor to be here with him and his family and friends today.”
Born in Berlin, Germany in 1925 and of Jewish descent, Mr. Lewy and his family escaped Germany after Kristallnacht in November 1938 and fled Europe as World War II engulfed the continent in the early 1940’s. Mr. Lewy was separated from his parents for a brief period but survived a harrowing cross-Atlantic boat trip and the family was re-united when he arrived in New York in 1942. He was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943, when he turned 18, and after completing training as an interpreter he was assigned to the Sixth Armored Division under General George Patton. Mr. Lewy was with the Sixth Armored as it landed in France just ten days after D-Day, then fought its way across Europe and eventually took part in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. He was also with the Sixth when the Division liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp, becoming the first Americans to witness firsthand the evil perpetrated by the Nazis. It changed his life forever.
“While I had some general knowledge of what was going on, it was a great shock to me,” 2019 Senior of the Year Stephan Lewy said. “I saw mountains of human remains; living skeletons walking or sitting in a daze, and children without parents not knowing where to go or who to trust. This picture has followed me and will continue to follow me all my life.”
Lewy was awarded the Bronze Star and five campaign stars for meritorious service at the conclusion of his military service. After discharge, he took a job as an office boy at a mining company in Boston. Under the GI Bill he finished 3 years of high school in 17 months, taking classes at night, and then went on to complete his college education at Northeastern University in 6 years of night classes. Mr. Lewy then passed an exam to become a Certified Public Accountant and worked as a public accountant for six years. He then moved on to a job with Sheraton Hotels for eleven years until he joined Dunfey Hotels (now Omni) in New Hampshire for the next twenty-two years. He retired in 1991 at the age of 66.
In 2014 Stephan Lewy was awarded the French Legion of Honor at the State House in Concord, N.H. for his military service during World War II. He married the late Frances Silver in 1949, and the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1999. They have two children, Arthur and Ellen, and three grandchildren. Mr. Lewy’s book, “A Sejourn Into Freedom”, is available at Amazon or the Barnes & Noble website.
“Frequently, I speak in schools and to other groups, telling my story. I am often asked why I do this, why I willingly bring back unpleasant memories,” Mr. Lewy said. “Firstly, my generation is getting older – there are fewer and fewer survivors to tell their stories. Secondly, our stories show what can happen if people do not act. Perhaps if enough people hear my story, history will not repeat itself. I only hope that the world has learned a lesson.”
For more information:
On the Erie County Department of Senior Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/seniorservices/
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