Marvin Lewis Sr., the Ohio River mill worker often credited with bequeathing his son the toughness and work ethic that have defined his teams in Cincinnati for a dozen years, died Thursday afternoon in a Pittsburgh area hospital after a long illness.
The father of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Lewis Sr. was 79. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Vanetta, his son, and two daughters. Arrangements are pending.
Lewis worked for 31 years on the Ohio at Shenango Steel and retired as a foundry foreman. But he was also known around his hometown of McDonald, Pa., for being a world-class handyman. After serving in the Army he returned to build the home where he lived the rest of his life while helping one neighbor build others. He also helped another neighbor start a garbage and trucking company.
He was also known to be fiercely proud of his three children that all got college scholarships.
In July of 2003 just before his son's first season as head coach, Lewis Sr. told Bengals.com of a conversation around the time Junior was going to graduate from Idaho State. The father expressed concern about how far a black coach could go, a very real question in 1980.
"He said, 'Daddy, you go to that mill every day and you hate that job. I want to do what I like to do,'" Senior recalled that day in McDonald. "I did hate that job, but that took care of the family. I didn't like school. I didn't go to college. If you don't get it from the ground up, it's so hard to catch up."
At that point his wife reminded him of his children's accomplishments: "I tell him he's got a degree in education, engineering, psychology, and criminology."