Charles Franklin Lewis


It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Charles Franklin Lewis, "Chuck," 85, of Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 26, 2021.

Chuck was born in Monte Vista, Colo., on March 14, 1936, to Frank Arthur and Maryanna Gilmore Lewis and lived in Center, Colo. As a young boy he worked in his father’s store “Lewis Hardware” in Center. After graduating from Center High School, he received a scholarship to the Socorro School of Mines in New Mexico to study geology. He later transferred to Adams State College as a geology major. However, after one class in chemistry from Dr. Tommy Thomson he changed his major to chemistry. He then graduated from Adams State with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.

At Adams State College he met Janice Pauline Carroll, of Alamosa, who was studying biology. While conducting a chemistry experiment, he walked across the hall to her biology lab and ask her to come next door to his chemistry class and confirm the color of fluid in a beaker experiment he was conducting. They then began dating and found that their personal chemistry was a match. On June 2, 1957, they were married. During the next 64 years of marriage, they led a rich life, full of amazing experiences fueled by their love of science and the outdoors.

He began his career working with the Bureau of Mines in Salt Lake City, Utah where he conducted scientific research and disseminated information on the extraction, processing, use and conservation of mineral resources.

In 1962, upon the recommendation of then Arizona State University professor Dr. Thomson, his previous professor, he was asked to join the Center for Meteorite Studies. He was hired to be a research chemist and first curator of the Niniger meteorite collection, which was the largest in the world and the only private collection to be held at a university to be used for research.

As Collection Curator, he was instrumental in creating curation techniques for the rare and unique meteorites housed in the Center’s collection. His skills provided curational expertise to scientists preparing to receive samples from the 1969 Apollo lunar landing, that proved crucial in setting up NASA’s Lunar Receiving Laboratory.

Chuck began by analyzing carbon in iron meteorites and his strong analytical capabilities were particularly invaluable. As a result of these capabilities, and his reputation for carbon analysis he was invited to Houston by NASA to perform the very first carbon measurements of the lunar samples returned by the Apollo 11 mission. He and the Center for Meteorite Studies research team duplicated ASU’s analytical setup in NASA's Lunar Receiving Laboratory, in Houston, Texas. He ultimately analyzed over 200 lunar samples returned by the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 missions. His work not only bolstered the research reputation of the Center, but also led to a breakthrough understanding of the sources of lunar carbon — that the moon and the earth shared the same organic material.

He is remembered and respected around the world not only as an outstanding chemist and curator, but also as a good friend. This included many undergraduate and graduate students, visiting scientists, and colleagues, including Oscar Monnig, Birger Wiik, Vagn Buchwald, and Ursula Marvin, that he worked with during his 30-plus years in the Center for Meteorite Studies.

Although his passion for minerals, fossils and meteorites was a highlight of his life he was also an exceptional jewelry maker and wood worker. He made pieces of jewelry for his wife, four daughters, son, other family members and friends. He had the privilege of making turquoise squash blossom necklaces for many of the Apollo astronauts’ wives. His pieces of furniture and turned bowls are enjoyed by family and many friends around the United States.

His love for his wife and five children was immense and unconditional. He was an amazing father and husband who filled his family with love and experiences beyond imagination. He took us on jeep rides in the wilds of Colorado, backpacking, camping, mineral and fossil collecting as well as mushroom hunting and sleeping on the beaches in Mexico. He taught everyone he met to explore the magic of nature. He loved to share his incredible knowledge with anyone who was interested, over a good meal and an excellent glass of red wine.

Charles is survived by his loving wife Janice Carroll Lewis, his five children; Janice Kathleen Lewis, of Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Kenneth Lewis of Grand Junction, Colo., Koni Faver of Phoenix, Ariz., Kristyne Livingston of Hemet, Calif. and Karen Hart of Phoenix, Ariz. He was blessed with 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will take place at the Masonic Lodge in the Masonic Park at 63 Solamons Circle, South Fork, CO 81154, on July 6, 2021, at 2 p.m. with a barbecue dinner to follow.

In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to:

Smithsonian Institution

National Museum of Natural History

PO Box 418320

Boston, MA 02241-8320

Add "Gift for the Dept of Mineral Sciences in honor of Charles F. Lewis" on check memo and or include a letter with this information.