Neil Dennis Lewis, age 86, passed away on December 4, 2020, at Avantara Milbank due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease and Covid-19.
Due to Covid-19 precautions, a memorial service is planned for the summer of 2021
Neil was born on July 21, 1934, in Milbank, to the late Melbourne and Florence (Lindahl) Lewis.
Neil graduated from Milbank High School in 1953. He enjoyed sports and was always ready to talk about their outstanding football record. That same year he was married to Clarice (Kloster) Durbin. They were blessed with four children.
On New Year’s Eve of 1977, he married Sharon (Derby) Smith and they enjoyed 42 years together before Sharon’s passing this past July.
Neil was known for his eternal optimism and congenial personality.
Neil learned the value of hard work at an early age; when Neil was 7 years old, his father, the late Melbourne Lewis, who was serving as Grant County Sheriff in Milbank, was shot and killed while attempting to apprehend a known felon.
As a boy, he spent summers working as a farm hand and then at Bell Telephone at age 19. His hard work ethic and perseverance led to many unique business ventures. After graduating high school, he purchased his first gas station, Louie’s Standard Oil in Milbank. He continued his entrepreneurial ventures by establishing Top Hat Bowling Lanes (1958), founding Whetsone Realty with Earl Bohlen (1960), inventing granite bowling lanes and granite topped billiard tables (1961), and establishing the Candle and Cue franchise (1967). In 1969, Neil spent much of his next two years in Ethiopia pursuing a project to obtain gum arabic. Additionally, he was known in Milbank for spearheading an all volunteer group to build the Milbank High School football bleachers in 1972. After moving to Rapid City, SD in the early 1970’s, Neil owned and operated the Esquire Dinner Club and then he created the franchise, International Mergers and Acquisitions (IMA) starting in 1977. In 1986, he and Sharon moved to Scottsdale, AZ. For the next 34 years, they continued to work together with the IMA company and thoroughly enjoyed the warmth and beauty of the Arizona desert.
As a young adult Neil served as a sergeant in the National Guards. He was a member of the Milbank Fire Department and served as chairman of the Grant County Republican Committee. Standout memories for Neil were surviving the Rapid City flood of 1972 and having a private meeting along with a group of Milbank men with President Nixon in the Oval Office.
Left to cherish his memories are his sons: Steve (Cherie) Lewis of Wilmot, SD; and Brad (Deb) Lewis of Fargo, ND; his daughters: Lori (Randy) Dockter of Milbank, SD; and Karen Lewis Kayl of Sioux Falls, SD; his brother, Larry (Carol) Lewis of Rapid City, SD; step-children: Troy (Mary) Smith of Omaha, NE; Terry (Karen) Smith of Meadow Vista, CA; ten grandchildren: Paul (Jessica) Lewis, Rachel (Dan) Keimig, Adam Lewis, Kathren Lewis, Emily Lewis, Steven Trapp, Michael Trapp, Kristin (Eric) Stuckey, Lauren (Jacob) Anderson, and Jamie Kayl; two step-grandchildren: Jenna and Eric Smith as well as 12 great-grandchildren.
Neil was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Sharon; sister, Betty Chaloupka; brother, Marwood Lewis; and infant granddaughter, Jessica Kayl.
The family would also like to thank Avantara Milbank for the kind and professional care and attention they gave him.
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