Lewis H. France, 74, made wine and stained-glass windows


Lewis Henry France Jr., an award-winning winemaker who designed and made stained-glass windows, died Sunday of lung cancer at Mercy Medical Center. He was 74.

The retired officer manager became interested in winemaking after learning that his mother, who lived in Louisiana, was making wine.

His wife, the former Ann Landis, whom he married in 1947, recalled that he said to her, " 'She can't make wine. They don't have any grapes in Louisiana.' Well, his daughter gave him a wine kit in 1972, and that got him started.

"He was fond of saying that he loved winemaking 'because you can always drink your mistakes and there are no unfriendly wine people,' "

Mr. France outfitted the basement of his Ailsa Avenue residence with the necessary equipment and produced award-winning wines that he bottled under his own label, Stambugio di vini (Little Wine Cubbyhole).

Kevin Kelehan, a Dickeyville resident and attorney who got to know him through the Chesapeake Bacchus Club, of which Mr. France was a co-founder, said, "Lew was famous for his red blends, which used French-American hybrid grapes and won him many awards.

"His wines were always at the top of the list, and that was due to his methods. He blended his wines in just the right manner and did the proper cellaring, which meant they were stored in oak barrels in his basement.

"He had a sonorous voice and a very ebullient and infectious laugh that simply lit up a room when he walked in. He had such a sense of joie de vivre, and as president of the American Wine Society, a national wine organization, he was happy fostering an appreciation of winemaking. He was a great student of wine and had a keen palate."

Mr. France's creativity extended to making stained-glass windows, which he learned to do by taking several courses. He designed and executed windows for his daughters and last winter installed two windows he had designed and presented as a gift to the Salvation Army Booth House in the 100 block of N. Calvert St.

Maj. Frank Gordon, commander of the Salvation Army Greater Baltimore Region, said, "He came down and looked at our chapel and decided it was a little drab. So he went home and designed two windows with a religious motif, which took him a year to complete and required him to make special trips to find the special glass he used.

"He was a positive person, very effervescent, the kind of person who shared his life with others. Everyone knew when Lew was around."

Known as "PaPa," Mr. France was born in New Orleans and moved to Hamilton in Northeast Baltimore as a youngster. He attended city schools and graduated from City College.

During World War II, he served aboard PT boats in the Pacific Theater from 1942 until his discharge in 1945 as master chief quartermaster. He was called back to active duty during the Korean War and served aboard an attack transport from 1950 to 1952. He was active in the Naval Reserve and retired in 1974 with the rank of master chief petty officer.

He worked in logistics support for the Glenn L. Martin Co. from 1950 to 1960, when he joined Bendix Radio as a manager of space logistics support.

He was officer manager for Maran Plastics from 1969 until retiring in 1980.

L He enjoyed traveling in Europe and was active in the Masons.

A memorial service was set for 2 p.m. today at Northside Baptist Church, 100 E. Northern Parkway.

Other survivors include two daughters, Luann Yench of Edgewood and Jane Lee Robinson of Hamilton; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to Northside Baptist Church or the Women's Auxiliary of the Salvation Army, 2602 Huntingdon Road, P.O. Box 33308, Baltimore 21218.

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