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Lewis William Leadbeater

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TOANO - Lewis William Leadbeater, 75, of Toano, died of respiratory failure on January 21, 2014. The only child of Samuel and Dorothea Leadbeater, he is survived by his life-partner of forty years, James A. Wickenden, cousins Jeanne Fraser, Doris Crowell, and Carole Slattery and members of their families and Mr. Wickenden's, as well as many closely-held friends and his much-loved Jack Russell Terrier, Bart. Services will be private. Born in Bloomfield, NJ Lew was educated in the public schools of East Orange, NJ where he studied Latin with C. Howard Smith, whom he described as "the person who most shaped my life." Impressed by Lew's ability, Mr. Smith also tutored him gratis in Classical Greek. While still in high school, Lew excelled at tennis, worked in the public library, and had the opportunity to accompany his Sunday School teacher's family, again gratis, to countless performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Lew continued these early avocations throughout his entire life, remaining physically active, reading widely and avidly, delighting in language and intellectual jousting, taking immense pleasure in operatic music of every era, and finding transcendent peace in the compositions of his favorite composers, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Lew pursued undergraduate study in Greek at the University of Pittsburgh and received his PhD in Classics from New York University. He joined the faculty of what was at that time called the Department of Ancient Languages at the College of William and Mary in 1965. For thirty six years he taught undergraduate classes in Greek language and literature, and he was also a founding member of the Comparative Literature program, in which field he both taught and published original papers on the extensive influence of classical Greek poets, playwrights, and philosophers on subsequent Western literature. Lew gleefully steered the humanities to sweet victory in one of the legendary William and Mary Raft Debates, and in 1986 he was honored with the Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching for "his diligence and care in preparation for his classes and his devotion to teaching." Upon his retirement from the College in 2001, he was lauded as a "master of the Socratic method, leading his students by interrogation to think through every issue of literature and philosophy down to its first principle." He authored a book of critical notes on Homer's Iliad and published frequently in scholarly journals devoted to both Classics and Comparative Literature. Following his retirement from the College, Lew accepted an invitation to write regularly on local political and social issues in an opinion column, "Notes from the Edge," published biweekly in the Virginia Gazette for more than ten years. In these short essays he delighted readers with his love of the written word and his often provocative neologisms and hyperbole. Lew relished stirring the pot as a Socratic gadfly and was never more delighted than when a column brought forth acrimonious debate from both sides of an issue. For his work, he received five Certificates of Merit for column writing from the Virginia Press Association, including first-place awards in 2005 and 2010. His collected columns may still be read online at his website, www.LewLeadbeater.com. In addition to his intellectual endeavors, Lew had a lifelong love of railroads that began with childhood trips to Scranton, PA on the Lackawanna RR to visit his grandparents and culminated in an extensive model train layout lovingly planned, carefully maintained and greatly enjoyed. Throughout his life he also took much pleasure in his annual vegetable patch, eagerly waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen and salad season to begin in earnest. Memories of Lew or expressions of sympathy may be emailed to the family at LewLeadbeater@gmail.com. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Heritage Humane Society, 430 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185 or to the James City-Bruton Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 911, Toano, VA 23168.
Published in Virginia Gazette from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, 2014
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