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Monday January 7, 2013

Lewis Purinton Currie

Watchmaker, businessman, family man, retired gentleman. Born June 6, 1918, in Woodstock, N.B., died Dec. 6, 2012, in Timmins, Ont., aged 94.

Lewis was 21 when the Second World War started and he thanked his lucky stars for the opportunity to leave a farming life in New Brunswick that he could not learn to love.

Born in the Saint John River Valley, Lewis was raised with five brothers and five sisters. He loved school and was good at it, but after Grade 8 he was needed on the farm.

Though he had a green thumb and a natural way with animals, the best thing I ever heard him say about farming was that it taught him to swear.

He became an air frame mechanic in the RCAF and served throughout Atlantic Canada in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. His favourite repairs were the ones nobody else could figure out.

Lewis didn't learn to love the military life either (though his collection of snapshots shows him in the company of various pretty girls, so I suspect he did learn to love).

After the war, he was offered vocational training and chose watchmaking. He studied in Toronto for two years, then accepted an offer to work for Charlie A. Remus, who had a jewellery store in the growing community of Timmins, Ont.

A few years later, in 1953, Lewis opened his own store - Lewis P. Currie Jewellers ("Don't forget the P," Charlie advised him) - and became a certified gemologist.

Senior positions in the chamber of commerce and the Lions Club followed, and so did two marriages and three children.

In 1991, Lewis retired at the age of 73, having run the store for 38 years and touched thousands of lives with engagement rings and fine gifts.

A widower by then, Lewis stayed in Timmins. There was never any question of moving back to New Brunswick or closer to family.

He had a love-hate relationship with the North. When I commented to him during a visit that the town looked nice after being away for a while, he replied: "Guess I've never been away that long."

Lewis thrived in the outdoors. He enjoyed cottages and boats, and fishing and hunting trips. It didn't matter if he'd tipped the canoe, forgotten to mix the fuel for the outboard or been skunked. It was all about the effort and the fresh air.

In retirement, Lewis volunteered with the distress line Telecare and delivered Meals on Wheels. And of course he proudly attended the annual Downtown Timmins awards ceremony to present the award that bears his name.

Though he became a public figure, a terrible shyness dogged him all his life. He was known to benefit from a little liquid courage.

I came along when Lewis was 52. By the time I was 9, I noticed he was a fair bit older than the other dads.

I asked him one day how old he was and how long he would live. He said he was 60 and, "Oh, I'll live another 10 years or so."

Thirty-four years later, his family are blessed to have had him as long as we did.

Ian P. Currie is Lewis's son.

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