Lewis Brett Frosch - 80
8/28/1939 - 6/27/2020
Lewis Brett Frosch - 1939-2020
Actor, play-write, poet, historian, eccentric, anglophile, and civic steward, Lewis Brett Frosch, 80, shuffled off this mortal coil peacefully following complications from heart surgery in Iowa City, Iowa on June 27, 2020.
Lewis, also known as “Butch” to his family, was born August 28, 1939 in the old Savanna City Hospital to Bette Lewis Frosch and Cecil Frosch. The family moved back to Thomson in 1950 and Lewis quickly developed his life-long friendships with Gene Fehler and Johnny Creighton over their shared enthusiasm for baseball and board games – even developing a baseball game of their own invention that bore a remarkable resemblance to the fantasy baseball games played today, and starting an obsession with strategic board games that Lewis would carry throughout his life, often playing extensive and complex games with friends throughout the country via “snail mail” that might take years to run their course.
Lewis graduated as Valedictorian from York Community High School in Thomson in 1957, where he also excelled in basketball, track and baseball -- regularly recalling his ability to legally bank his signature hook shot off the gym radiator as an example the home court advantage offered by the old YCHS gym. His academic prowess landed him a four-year scholarship to the University of Illinois, where he attended until enrolling in the U.S. Air Force in 1961. Lewis served for three years in England at RAF Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, England, developing a life-long love of all things English. While in England, he continued his undergraduate studies and led his international basketball team to the base championship in 1964.
Ever the trailblazer, following his military service, Lewis returned to the U.S. and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley in 1965. While there, he had a front row seat to the beginnings of the social movements emanating from UC Berkeley that would spread throughout the country, and was a regular visitor to the infamous City Lights Bookstore run by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, rubbing shoulders with writers and poets who would help transform the landscape of American writing for years to come.
After a short period teaching high school English, Lewis returned to the Thomson area, where he worked at various jobs in the area until his retirement in 2006. During that time, Lewis engaged in a truly eccentric life, in the best possible definition of the word. He was a prolific writer of stories, poems and historical plays – including “The Shooting of Wayland Bennett,” several detailed remembrances of persons and events in the history of Thomson, and a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Richard III. He was as comfortable performing as he was writing plays, and could be found throughout his career equally at home sharing the stage with a Russian ballerina, an invisible rabbit, or a barbershop quartet.
Lewis was known throughout the area for his quick wit, sometimes intolerable penchant for puns, his love of area history, and his distinctively international taste in headwear – he was rarely seen in public without his English driving cap, his Russian ushanka fur hat, or his slightly askew French beret, sometimes with and sometimes without the added flourish of a cotton ball in each ear. Despite his educational achievements and sartorial indulgences, Lewis was a great communicator who could charm people of all backgrounds. He was as quick with a quote from Shakespeare as he was with the lineup for every Cubs team from 1950 to the present, and always had a strong opinion about the rise and fall of the Chicago Bulls. He was especially pleased that he outlived the Cubs curse, and was around long enough to see them bring home a World Series pennant in 2016.
He was known among his family as a devoted son, brother and uncle, never missing a birthday, and always finding a way to make each of his numerous nieces and nephews feel as if they were his favorite. He never missed sending a card – typically oversized and filled with an outrageous pun – to each of them on their birthday. He always wanted to know what everyone was doing, no matter how far away they had traveled -- and always encouraged them to follow their own individual dreams.
During his final chapter or last act, Lewis was active in the Thomson Lions Club, and became a fixture at the Thomson Depot Museum, where he spent countless hours regaling tourists and locals alike with his encyclopedic knowledge of Thomson history and legend while serving as its Curator. Despite his declining physical health, his mind always remained sharp and his wit nimble, and he rarely missed a chance to share all that he knew with anyone who had just a few minutes to listen.
Lewis is survived by his sisters, Luanne (Lawrence) Bruckner and Teresa (Eric) Meakins Linn, brother, Tony Frosch, and sister-in-law Jan Frosch, as well as his adoring nieces and nephews, Jeff Frosch, Jason Frosch, Matt Henneman, Amie Callahan, Heidi Henneman, Brianna Bruckner and Tyler Oliver. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bette Meakins and Cecil Frosch, his step-father Max Meakins, his step-mother Evie Frosch, his brother, Larry “Joe” Frosch, and his longtime companion Jeanie Refbord.
Following a private grave side service, a celebration of Lewis’ life will be scheduled later this year when safe to do so. Details will be announced by the family at that time. In lieu of customary remembrances or flowers, the family kindly suggests contributions be directed to the Thomson Depot Museum. The Pape Funeral Home, Clinton is assisting the family. Online condolences may be left at www.papefh.com.
Celebration of Life:
To be held at a later date when safe to do so.