1950s-era Pirate all-star athlete in football, basketball and track
Raymon Lewis - number 31
Raymon Lewis, who died on Jan. 3, 2023, at age 82, was among Bluffton High Schools all-around all-star athletes, setting records in football, basketball and track during his career with the Pirates.
Some comments from Rudi Steiner, who played on teams with Raymon:
I played three sports with Ray when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. In football I was a lineman. Ray told me to open the holes big enough for him to get through, so that’s what I did.
Our families were neighbors and my grandmother Bertha Hahn and Minnie Lewis were close friends. My mother and the Lewis siblings grew up together. The Lewis family lived on Jackson Street and Elm and later moved down the street from us on Lawn Avenue to care for their grandmother, Minnie Lewis.
The Lewis house was directly across from the old grade school. On the west side of the old school were two outdoor basketball courts, during the winter Ray would bring a snow shovel from home and clear the court of snow so he could shoot baskets. That’s how dedicated he was.
Ray practiced day and night in all types of weather. Ray was a gifted athlete with a lot of natural abilities, but he also worked very hard because he wanted to be the best he could be.
As a basketball player during his senior year (1958-59) Lewis scored 415 points in 18 games, an average of 23.05 points per game. The only player to top Lewis at that time was Neil Schmidt (1946-47) who scored 430 points in 18 games, and average of 23.89 per game.
Lewis hit 142 points in his last five games, including a pair of 41 point outbursts against Hardin Northern and Cory-Rawson.
The 41 point figure was a single game scoring mark for BHS at the time, breaking the old standard of 36 set by Schmidt in his banner season.
Lewis also had 30-point games against Shawnee and Beaverdam and scored 26 against Columbus Grove and Bath.
Schmidt appeared in 18 of the Pirates 19 games in 1946-47, missing one because of an injured knee. He scored 362 points in 15 regular season games, an average of24.1 per game. Lewis hit 400 points in 17 regular season games, an average of 23.53 per game.
Lewis scored 15 points in the tournament as the Pirates bowed to LaFayette in the opener.
Schmidt stood out in the tournament, scoring 19, 24 and 25 in Bluffton’s three games to reach his 430 point peak.
Playing before 3-point play existed, Lewis hit several 2-pointers from today’s 3-point range, including at least one from center court in the old BHS gym.
In football, Lewis held the record for the longest TD carry of 88 yards versus Forest in 1958 until Bruce Marshall broke it with a 90-yard TD in 1965.
He caught the longest TD pass of 85 yards versus Waynesfield in 1957, thrown by Tim Diller. He was part of a two-man team setting another record in 1957 as he tossed the longest TD pass of 90 yards versus Pandora-Gilboa. Bob Logan was the receiver. That record stood until 1965 when Max Eastman passed to Larry Eikenbary for a 94-yard TD against Delphos Jefferson.
In1958 he scored 22 TDs and 20 PATs for 162 points in a single season, at the time second only to Howard Triplehorn’s 169 points during the 1929 season.
He was also second in career TDs with 40 TDs scored and 79 PATs for 311 points, again second to Triplehorn’s 345 career points.
Lewis won three individual titles in Northwest Conference track meets and was part of two NWC meet first-place relays.
1957 – 800 relay with Ed Niswander, Bob Logan and Duane Bixel
1958 – 800 relay with Ed Niswander, Bob Logan and Terry Marshall
1958 – 100 yard
1959 – 100 yard
1959 – 200 yard
Lewis died at Mercy Health-St. Rita's Medical Center, Lima. He was born April 5, 1940, in Bluffton to Arthur and Cleota "Cody" (Lanning) Lewis.
After high school he retired from Dana Corporation in McHenry, Illinois. Ray was a veteran of the United States Army serving during the Vietnam
Survivors include two sons, Donnell Lewis of Cary, North Carolina, Ryan Lewis of Fredericksburg, Virginia; Zac Lewis, Brandon Little; four great-grandchildren, Aiden Lewis, Maverick Lewis, Aloy Little, Damien Little and a sister, Mary L. Coletta of Bluffton.
Ray was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters, Catherine Ann Cripe and Barbara Jean Slapin.
Condolences may be expressed to the family at www.chiles-lamanfh.com