Thursday, December 5, 2013

Remembering Al Lewis April 30, 1923 - February 3, 2006

"He burned brightly.  His passion for life and his wisdom are alive in the people he inspired.  Husband, father, grandfather, friend, mentor---he loved the life in himself and in others.  He honored the strength he saw in people, especially when they did not see it in themselves.  He was crafty in the way that he could rouse the sleeping greatness in us all.  Don't stand in the way of yourself---he could recite this as a poem, sing it in the blues, or issue it as a command, whatever was needed.  He was funny.  He was a trickster and a sage."

These are the words written in the memorial program of Avraham Meister better known as Al Lewis and even more known for his role as "Grandpa Munster" on the popular CBS sitcom "The Munsters" that aired from September 24, 1964 to May 12, 1966.

Grandpa Munster
Little is known for sure about his birth and childhood.  He is thought to have been born on April 30, 1923 to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York.  He told others that his birthdate was 1910.  No official place of birth can be documented although it is believed that he was born in Wolcott, New York.  He often mentioned that his mother worked in a sweat shop and is said to have been a tough woman.  Lewis attended Thomas Jefferson High School in New York until his junior year.  He later went to Oswego State Teachers College.

He began his career in burlesque and vaudeville theaters.  He soon found himself on Broadway when he performed in "The Night Circus" and "One More River"  He also took on the role of "Moe Shtarker" in the musical comedy "Do Re Mi"

His television career began on "Decoy" "The Phil Silvers Show" and "Naked City"  He began to gain his fame on "Car 54 Where are You" having played the role of Officer Leo Schnauser" from 1961-63.  When it came to movies, Lewis first role was "Machine Gun Manny" in "Pretty Boy Floyd"  and "Turkey" in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

Officer Leo Schnauser
Over the years, Lewis made appearances on "Green Acres" and the judge in "Used Cars"  He could often be seen on the Howard Stern Show.

Al Lewis was an outspoken political activist and was a Green Party candidate for Governor of New York City but was defeated.

Al Lewis Funeral Program
Finally, Lewis opened an Italian restaurant called "Grampa's Bella Gente" in Greenwich Village and made numerous appearances for photographs with his patrons as well as a comedy club  that went by the name of "Grandpa's on New Dorp Plaza located in Staten Island.

Al Lewis died on February 3, 2006 first reported at the age of 95 and then was determined to be 82 from complications from heart surgery.

Grampa Al Commemoration
Al Lewis funeral (program pictured) was held in the Riverside Church in New York City.  Another service was held called "Grampa Al Lewis Commemoration" (program pictured) was held September 18, 2006 at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Main Street Roosevelt Island.  Among those who paid tribute to Lewis was Al Hooks.

Al Lewis was cremated and his ashes were placed in his favorite cigar box.

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