By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN When describing Harlan Lewis of Delano, the phrase “good citizen” might come to mind, but that wouldn’t truly capture the extent of his contributions to society.
“I take my responsibilities as a citizen very seriously,” Lewis said.
In Delano, he’s involved in Dream Team II, CERT team, public safety committee, Community Education board, commons community action board, American Legion Post 377, and the new industrial park task force.
“I’ve always had community service as part of my background,” he said.
Before college, Lewis also served in the US Army Security Agency for about three years.
“I wanted to do something for my country,” he said.
Lewis has his share of Army stories, including a near-death experience. He was pulled off of a flight at the last minute, and the plane ended up crashing into a mountain, killing everyone on board.
While in the Army, Lewis earned top-secret encryption clearance, and spent 22 months in Korea.
“I drove secret materials around Korea,” he said.
Even while serving overseas, Lewis sought out opportunities to help others.
“There was an orphanage not far from our camp,” he said. Lewis asked the other soldiers for toothbrushes, soap, and other supplies. He collected about 50 pounds worth of items and donated them to the orphanage.
“I still like doing things for people,” he said.
After his military service, the CIA offered Lewis a position, but he decided to go to college instead.
“I wanted to get back to the states,” he said.
Lewis earned a political science degree from Moorhead State University, and a 2-year degree in automated mechanical systems.
He married his wife, Jane, during his last year of college.
“I had finals that Friday morning, and we were married Friday evening,” he said.
While the couple was dating, Lewis said Jane accidentally drove over him.
“I had a ’57 Chevy stick shift, and I was teaching her how to drive it,” Lewis said. He was giving her parallel parking lessons, and stood behind the car to get something out of the trunk. Jane didn’t know she had the car in reverse, and accidentally backed over him.
Lewis said he didn’t get hurt at all, but it was a scary experience for Jane.
“She couldn’t find me, and she was screaming and crying,” he said.
“I can say my wife tried to kill me before we got married,” he added, laughing.
Now, the couple has been happily married for 44 years. They have a daughter, Siiri, and son, Brad, along with three grandchildren. Jane has worked in the bakery department at Cub Corporation in Plymouth for 30 years.
The first 15 years of marriage, Lewis said they moved 14 times, because of his job with the Boy Scouts of America.
One of Lewis’s first after-college jobs was a district Scout executive position.
“I’ve been involved in Scouting most of my life, in one way or another,” he said.
During his years as a Boy Scout leader, Lewis said he remembers enjoying many outdoor activities, including winter camping in Ely. Although the group faced sub-zero temperatures, they constructed special domes to keep warm.
During the trip, the Boy Scouts ran into people from the National Guard. They were planning to cancel training due to cold weather, but after seeing the Boy Scouts out camping, they changed their minds, Lewis said.
Lewis also enjoys other outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and collecting agates.
In 1967, Lewis was part of a gem and mineral club in Carlton County. He and his group are the reason that the Lake Superior Agate is the state gemstone.
“We petitioned the house and senate,” Lewis said. “We made each of them a tie tack out of agate.”
Finding Indian arrow points and carving walking sticks are a few of Lewis’s other hobbies.
He also invests time in keeping up with current issues in Delano. Lewis said he attends many of the school board meetings, and also reads minutes from other meetings in Delano.
“I try to be a person who understands what some of the issues are,” he said.