BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – He kept music alive in Fort Madison. That’s the legacy of Lewis Lee Vincent, who passed away Tuesday at his home in Fort Madison.
According to his daughter Kathleen, Lewie battled epilepsy and died unexpectedly Tuesday morning at his home.
“He was born in the Woodstock generation and him and his friends just listed to music all the time. They were just raised around that type of environment and he kept that alive in this town,” Kathleen said.
His nephew Chris, who now owns Vinnie’s Longbranch with his wife Tara, said that was Lewis’ legacy.
“His love of music is the one thing that stands out,” Chris said. ‘He loved listening to it, watching it and singing to it.”
As late as this past Sunday, Kathleen took Lewis to the Chicago Open Air show in Bridgeview Ill. to listen to Tool, an American rock band formed in the 1990s in Los Angeles.
She said music was always a part of his life and he fought hard to hang onto that passion, and then bring it along as part of the business when he took over Vinnie’s tap from his grandfather Earl, the original “Vinnie”.
Kathleen said Vinnie’s has been in the family since her grandfather opened the Glass Bar in 1946 on the same strip in what is now the Santa Fe Village in the 2600 and 2700 block of Avenue L.
She said the bar’s been in four locations since it was opened in 1946 and Lewie was always a part of that scene since his childhood.
When he was a young teenager, Kathleen said Lewis wanted to go out to Woodstock and Earl, a navy veteran and businessman wouldn’t let his son go, so he ran off with a friend to Colorado. The vehicle they used broke down and they had to pick strawberries for money to find a way home.
“That’s how passionate he was about music,” she said. ‘My grandpa was in the military in the Navy and was a businessman and family man, and he didn’t understand the music scene back then.”
Lewie, as he came to be known, lived with his aunt in Des Moines for a while as she was getting a teaching degree, but moved back to the Fort Madison area soon after and took a job at Crandon’s Papermill and he stayed there for more than 30 years.
She said her grandparents weren’t strict with Lewie and his six brothers and sisters, who were always in or around the bar.
“They had that relationship where the kids were allowed to come and go. They would kick them out of the bar when it got late, but the kids would always seem to sneak back in.”
Lewie even set up an informal foundation where he and some friends used some income from rental properties to help people who were need.
“They would just lend it out and of course you were just supposed to pay it back. Really simple. That’s who he was. If you needed $20, he gave you $20. If you needed help moving something, he just left and helped you move it,” she said. “He loved the customers and friends he came to know in this town…and he loved this town.”
Earl started the Vinnie’s bar brand when he borrowed some money from George Rashid, Earl’s best friend and that’s how he got started, she said.
The business moved four times along the strip and was named Vinnie’s Place, Vinnie’s Longbranch and in back of one of the bars was a bowling alley called “Lucky Lanes”. The building had a 24-hour guest room on the top floor and it caught fire one year and damaged the building, but the bowling alley was saved and kept functional for years after.
The patriarch also helped build the Eagles building that used to sit where Walgreen’s sits now at the corner of 27th and L.
Kathy said running the bar at whichever location has always been a collaborative effort with the family.
“There have been all kinds of family and friends that have helped out with the business. A lot of them were just friends, but we called them all family,” she said.
That was something that was dear to Lewie’s heart.
“He was just a very loving person. He had so much compassion for that place and a love for that place. If someone did get out of line, he’d just raise his voice and that would be that,” she said.
“He would have benefits for people to help raise money… he would hold wedding receptions and were part of cook-offs at Faith’s…that kind of thing. But with dad, if he loved you…he loved you. This was his hometown and never wanted to leave. My dad thanks everyone and he loved everyone. And if anyone would like to submit comments about dad. We love hearing stories about our dad.”
Friends may call after 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, 2019 with the family to receive friends from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday evening at King-Lynk Funeral Home & Crematory. The funeral will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, May 24, 2019 at King-Lynk Funeral Home & Crematory.
Lewie is survived by: his wife: Debra Vincent of Fort Madison, IA; 3-daughters: Eileen (Doug) Sweezer of Winfield, IA, Rianna (James) Ralph of Nauvoo, IL & Kathleen (Tony Damico) Vincent of Fort Madison, IA; 4-grandchildren: Liana, Dane & Kade Sweezer & Lewis Poetting; 2-step grandchildren: Micah Crutcher & Natalia Damico; 2-sisters: Pam Simon of Fort Madison, IA & Candy (Fred) Yaeger of Excelsior Springs, MO. He was preceded in death by: his parents, 3-brothers, 1-sister, 1-nephew, 1-niece & 1-great nephew.
Editors’ Note: The family is asking anyone with short stories or memories they would like to share to do so in the comments section after the post. Kathy said they love reading and hearing about all the stories involving their father.