Our region is remembering a man who helped to tell its story. Ed Lewi, who was press director of the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980 and did p.r. for Saratoga Race Course for decades, died Saturday at 81.
Friends and colleagues say Ed Lewi, who had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was a public relations innovator. Lewi began his career as a sportswriter for the Daily Gazette. He worked for the Associated Press, United Press International, and spent 18 years with the Times Union in advertising and marketing.
He founded the firm that bears his name in the 1960s as a part-time venture.
Lewi managed communications for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid where he met and worked closely with organizing committee member Jim Rogers. "One of the most agreeable people I've ever dealt with and the nicest part of Ed Lewi was that he fell in love with Lake Placid and became a big fan of Lake Placid ever since. So it was great fun working with him. He was a wonderful man."
Barbara Lomabardo just retired after 38 years as executive editor at The Saratogian. "He loved Saratoga Springs. He loved the race track and SPAC. I loved the way that he would shine the spotlight on the people and the organizations and the institutions that he cared about. Never on himself. He was a great promoter but he was never a self-promoter. And you had to love him for that."
Lewi worked p.r. for the New York Racing Association for decades. His company was sold to current owner Mark Bardack in 2010. "Ed personified public relations and marketing the Capital Region. I mean Ed re-invented what public relations and marketing and what the industry could accomplish in this area."
Another client was the Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in Lake George. Bardack says Lewi had nailed down the knack of making friends and influencing people. "An incredibly warm and caring individual. He had the kind of personality that made everybody feel special whenever they came in contact with him. You hear that about politicians. The great politicians have the ability to make everybody they come in contact with feel special, and, not by any means to imply he was politician, but he had that personality to make everybody to feel like he or she was the mopst important person in the world when Ed was speaking to him or her. That's a unique quality."
Famed Saratoga thoroughbred owner and breeder Marylou Whitney said Lewi "helped put Saratoga on the map." Lewi is credited with buoying the growth and success of Saratoga Race Course. Again, Barbara Lombardo: "He helped make August the place to be and beyond August, Saratoga Springs, whether it was a hats off type of festival, things to bring people downtown, to raise the image and the reputation of the track and the city. He worked at it tirelessly, and people don't really realize, because he wasn't a self-promoter, how much he did to draw people together and draw people to the city."
Before the Travers, there was a moment of silence at the track’s biggest day Saturday for Lewi. Lewi maintained a long history of philanthropy, volunteerism and community involvement to numerous charitable causes. He has links to a long list of professional organizations, foundations and public service organizations.
Lewi is survived by his wife Maureen; sons Jim Lewi and Joe Lewi; daughters-in-law Lori and Melissa; and four grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but the Times Union says an event in Saratoga is being planned, possibly on Tuesday. Lewi will be buried in Greenridge Cemetery in Saratoga.