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Norman L. "Jitney" LewisAugust 8, 1928 ~ May 4, 2017 (age 88)
Norman L. "Jitney" Lewis of Danville, Vermont – educator (1952-1983), Cog Railway engineer (1950-1967) and entertainer (1928-2017) died of natural causes in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 4, 2017 at the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury. He was 88. Lewis, the youngest of five boys born to Albert Arthur and Eunice Mattie (Colby) Lewis of Lunenburg, Vermont, was proud to say he was born on 8/8/28 at 8pm at home. Norm went to school in Lunenburg, Gilman, and graduated from Lancaster Academy in 1946. He followed his brothers into the military and served in the U.S. Army of the Occupation in Germany. Discharged and back home working on the town road crew, he took the milk truck driver's advice and went to Lyndon Teachers College because as Gob Streeter told him, "They'll take anybody!"
At Lyndon, he was part of the first class to move up to the Vail Manor campus, and pitched for the baseball team. Active in campus politics, he made sure the Hornet became the college's mascot, and with his friend, Dick Collins, got in trouble for risqué cartoons in the campus newspaper. His roommate, George Trask (responsible for the "Jitney" nickname due to Norm's jitter-bugging ability at the local dance hall) introduced Norm to Col. Henry Teague at the Mount Washington Railway, and thus began a summer job he went back to for 18 seasons – first alone then with his family.
Norm met his partner at Lyndon. Barbara Jean Whitney was from South Royalton, Vermont and upon graduation the pair married in June 1952. Norm and Barb's teaching careers centered around Chester, Springfield, Newport and Derby, Vermont areas – Barb focusing on elementary education – Norm teaching and providing students guidance before moving into administration as a principal, and then the superintendent's office until he retired 1983. They had two children, Tim Lewis (former broadcast journalist now teaching at his parent' alma mater) and Cintra Hazen (retired IBM employee now working part-time at the Northwestern Medical Center in H-R). Cintra and her husband, Richard Hazen provided Norm and Barb with a grand-daughter, Erica (a social service worker helping troubled youth in Chittenden County). Norm and Barb were glad Erica had two older half-brothers she could count on - Rick and Rob Hazen. The retired couple moved to Danville in November 1995. Barb pre–deceased Norm in 2000, after 47 years of marriage.
Norm was able to nurture his childhood desire to work in vaudeville by writing and producing original school plays that put every student on stage. He combined his vaudeville tendencies with his interest in politics, and orchestrated the perennial and constantly unsuccessful campaign of Rep. Danny Gore of Avery's Gore for more than 35 years and 1500 appearances around the state, the region, and that big flight to Colorado (where he got to see that other Cog Railway.) Luckily the Gore Family and the Lewis Family got along well and provided much needed support for Norm's creativity. Even after Rep. Danny followed U.S. Senator George Aiken's Vietnam era advice that "when in a hopeless campaign – declare victory and go home!" in 1994, Norm continued to monitor the political scene. He was glad he had lived long enough to see a black man be elected president, and had hoped to see Barb's dream of a female chief executive fulfilled. He had trouble believing what he was seeing, and would shake his head while monitoring the new administration.
For the last two years, he and his son have worked to complete a manuscript first begun in 1962 of an operating manual for the Mount Washington Railway steam locomotives during the Jitney Years of 1950 to 1967. While Jitney's technical manual and eyewitness story-telling section was completed early on, his son morphed the document into an extensive memoir, and with the help of Jitney's Cog family, it became an in-depth look into the little-known employees and events during the New Hampshire tourist attraction's lifetime. The fourth draft was completed at the hospital the night Norm died.
No service is planned at this point. Rep. Danny Gore says he and the Avery's Gore Historicity Committee will hold a celebration of the life of his long-time campaign manager Norm Lewis this summer in Avery's Gore. Norm fully endorsed Rep. Danny's stance that kindness was the key to success in a community, and so those wishing to make donations in his memory should select a local organization – food shelf, historical society, or school program – that puts kindness and dignity for all the world's people at the top of their agenda.
Memories and condolences may be shared with the family online at www.saylesfh.com.
A few more sites of interest for Danny Gore:
Norm and Danny Talk – 1984 https://vimeo.com/215959948