People who Inspire: Lew Lynn on making every minute of his 91 years count

Lew at garden

Lewis “Lew” Lynn makes the most of every minute. Make that all 47,829,600+ minutes of his 91 years. Yesterday morning, he played 18 holes of golf and missed a hole in one by three feet. It’s okay, he’ll be back next Saturday to try again.

His focus on the golf course has earned Lew four holes in one and nine WPGA championship titles, which included four Father and Son tournaments at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Connellsville, PA.

That same focus has driven him to succeed off the course too, both in the cock-pit and in business. And it may have saved his life.

In 1942, Lew enlisted in the US Air Force and entered flight school. “I was flying a B25 solo over Florida in an open cock-pit at 4,000 feet when the engine conked out. I picked out an open field and glided the plane down to a safe landing,” he said.  It was just another day that tested Lew’s unshakable resolve.

He would continue to aim high as he went on to spend five intense months studying on the 10th floor of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh to become a cadet.  Lew remarked, “It seemed that five years of college was condensed into those five months. We didn’t leave the building.”  He was later commissioned as a First Lieutenant.

Another Great Adventure

Maybe it was growing up on a farm with five siblings that taught Lew the value of reaping what you sow, but one thing is for sure, Lew’s entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a strong work ethic meant only one thing – his life was about to become another great adventure.

Lew returned home to western Pennsylvania, got into the trucking business, and married his high school sweetheart, Betty.

In 1951, the couple took a trip to Colorado with Lew’s parents to visit his sister. Along the way, they stopped in Albuquerque, New Mexico to stay overnight. Across from the hotel, they could see a long line of people at a Dairy Queen walk-up and they decided to head there too. “There were so many people that I joked with Betty that they must be giving something away,” Lew said.

Their first taste of Dairy Queen would not be their last. Not by a long shot.

Back at home, Lew located a man who was in charge of developing Dairy Queens in Pennsylvania. That meeting ended with a handwritten agreement to open a Dairy Queen store in Connellsville, PA. The first bank he went to for a loan, turned him down. The second bank was the charm and Lew and Betty Lynn opened their Dairy Queen walk-up store in 1952, serving soft serve treats.

Growing a Family and a Business

“Betty and I worked the store until 10:00 p.m. each night. By then the couple had their first child, Rick. “Thank goodness for Betty’s mother who babysat for us,” he said

One year later, Lew and Betty became territory operators with Dairy Queen, giving them control of development and franchise rights in southwestern Pennsylvania.  The Lynn’s territory not only grew, so did their family as they welcomed two more children, Jack and Judy.

Through the years, Lew managed to also become an insurance appraiser, a real estate broker, and an owner of a bank. He and the co-owners sold the bank, but for the past 20 years, he has remained on board as a trustee.  All of these skills have served him well as he continued to run a store and develop Dairy Queen franchise stores.

There are now 57 Dairy Queens in the Dairy Queen of Southwest PA territory spanning 10 Pennsylvania counties. Judy owns five DQ Grill and Chill restaurants, including the Dairy Queen Brazier her parents formerly owned. She and her daughter, Jordan, an MBA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, are active in store and territory operations.

Both mother and daughter happen to be accomplished golfers too.

A Change of Seasons

Four years ago, Betty passed away after courageously battling Parkinson’s Disease. During her last two years when she required more care, Lew was her constant companion and loving caregiver. “You take a vow when you get married, for better or for worse,” he said.  They were married for 61 years.

Just a few months ago, Lew learned that he had rectal cancer and began a series of treatments, which included surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. He is still undergoing treatment and it hasn’t slowed him down one bit.

Lew recalled how he and Betty enjoyed taking their children, with family friends, on skiing trips to Vermont and Colorado as well as skiing locally at Seven Springs. “I’ve been skiing there for so long that I can remember when the ski lift was nothing more than a rope tow, run off of a tractor trailer to pull you up the slope,” he remarked.

This past March, after receiving a chemotherapy treatment, Lew drove up to Seven Springs Mountain Resort. He commented, “I got to the gate and bought the season pass. Since it was so late in the season, the attendant told me it will be good for next year too. I did 15 runs down the North Face slope.”

Living Life Fully

Last September, when his granddaughter Jordan competed in the USGA 26th Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship in San Antonio, TX, it was her 90 year old grandfather, Lew, by her side serving as her caddy.

And if you happen to be at Sand Hill Berries and Green Dance – The Winery at Sand Hill in Mount Pleasant, PA, where his son Rick and his wife Susan are part owner, you might just see Lew there too. He’ll be in the vineyards operating, with precision, the farm equipment that mechanically picks black kerns over five acres of land.

For Lew, it’s about living life to the fullest measure.

Like he does when he’s nurturing 90 flowers from 30 different species of Dahlias in his back yard, bowling in a league, and attending Rotary meetings each week where he holds the distinction of having 60 years of perfect attendance.

No, a little thing like cancer isn’t going to slow Lew down. “This is just a bump in the road on the way to 100,” he said with a smile.

Postscript: Two days later, Lew was to surprise his granddaughter, Jordan, by driving to Canton, Ohio to be there in time for her 7:30 a.m. tee off for a US Women’s Mid-Amateur Sectional Qualifier. He was planning to leave shortly after 4:00 a.m. that day to meet a friend for the three hour drive. “It’s just a straight shot down the turnpike,” he remarked. However, he unexpectedly passed away the day after this interview. Lew truly lived and loved every minute of his life.   

“People who Inspire” is a series to shine a spotlight on people who have done extraordinary things. If you have experienced a great adventure, survived a life-threatening illness or trauma, overcome obstacles in achieving a goal, or have made an impact on someone’s life, I’d love to hear from you to share your story. Email me at marymotivates@gmail.com so that we can inspire others to be unstoppable in the pursuit of their goals.

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  One thought on “People who Inspire: Lew Lynn on making every minute of his 91 years count

  1. larryorlando2013
    August 26, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Really a model for us all.

    • August 26, 2013 at 1:38 am

      He sure is, Larry. When I think I can’t do more in a day, I think of Lew, and then I know that I can. Thank you for your comment.

  2. August 26, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing this post. It’s really nice to throwback the times of happy moments, and that’s exactly what Lew’s doing. He’s making the most of everything. The happy moments of Lew in the snow with her wife and children was so touching (teary eyed)
    : ( … I’m praying for you to be healed Lew : )

    • August 26, 2013 at 1:45 am

      Thanks so much for visiting the blog and for your feedback. It’s a privilege to share Lew’s story. Thank you for your prayers for him too.

  3. August 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I have known Mr. Lynn (and the family) my whole life. He is truly an inspiration to anyone that knew him. My heart is saddened to find out he passed away this week. I have moved from western PA and it is with great sorrow that I can not attend the funeral this week. My prayers are with Jack, Judy and Rick and their families at this time.

    • September 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you so much, Jamie, for your thoughtful note.

  4. Sue
    December 28, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Lew was my mentor and still is. He was a wonderful boss and person. I regret never reaching out to him to tell him this. The work ethics and values I have and live today I owe a lot to his teachings at my very first job at his first DQ in 1985. I will forever hold him close to my heart.

    • December 28, 2013 at 1:46 am

      Thank you, Sue, for sharing this wonderful sentiment about the impact Lew had on your life.

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