Joseph E. Lewis Jr., owner of Jerry's Marine Service, died Thursday. He was 74.
"This represents the passing of a generation, one that helped build and grow South Florida's marine industry," said Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.
Herhold said Joe Lewis and his late wife, Helen, were very involved in the marine industry. He first met Joe Lewis years ago at an advisory board meeting for the McFatter Marine Technology Center, and Helen Lewis was MIASF's first woman president.
Mike Gibbs, general manager of Barr Marine, had known Joe Lewis for more than 25 years. Barr manufactures marine exhaust systems distributed by Jerry's Marine.
"He's run one of the most successful distributorships that I know of," said Gibbs, adding, "He's always been a very cordial, down-to-earth person."
Another industry colleague, Marine Power president Eddy Albright, described Lewis as "an awesome guy" who was "full of energy."
"He was probably happiest on the forklift straightening out his warehouse," he said.
Albright started doing business with Jerry's Marine in 1986 when Marine Power expanded its commercial marine business into the recreational market.
"He really helped Marine Power grow in the early years," he said.
Lewis was born June 11, 1935, in Cold Springs, N.Y. He became an outboard mechanic in late 1950s and worked at his father's marine business in Bricktown, N.J. He moved to Florida in 1964 where he worked as a marine mechanic and business owner of Lewis Boat Sales & Service until 1973.
Lewis married Helen Novic in 1968 and, in 1973, the two teamed up with longtime partner and friend Bobby Laborde to purchase Jerry's Marine, an inboard engine sales and service dealership. The new owners quickly transformed the dealership into a distributorship specializing in "hard parts" - marine engines, parts, transmissions, steering systems and remote controls.
By the late 1970s, Jerry's Marine became a pioneer in the development of the marine aftermarket parts industry where it has held the lead position for more than 30 years. With warehouses in Fort Lauderdale, Charleston, S.C., and Lakewood, N.J., it covers the East Coast from the Florida Keys to Maine.
Lewis was preceded in death by his wife, and is survived by his sons Joe, Doug, Tim and Jon; five grandchildren - Joe IV, Andy, Alea, Anessa and Shane; and an older sister, Carol Harvey.
Today, the four sons manage Jerry's Marine's three locations.
"Helen and Joe passed on their love of the industry to their children, the next generation," says Herhold.
Services will be held Monday at Fred Hunter Funeral Home in Fort Lauderdale, with visitation 3-6 p.m. and services at 6:30 p.m. For those attending the services, the family requests dress to be "Joe Lewis casual" - Hawaiian shirt preferred, socks are optional.
In lieu of flowers contributions may be made in his memory to: Hospice of Gold Coast, 2101 W. Commercial Blvd., Suite 4500, Fort Lauderdale 33309. Condolences can be shared online at www.fredhunters.com.