Leighton “Sandy” N. Lewis was the most warm, insightful and engaging person you could hope to know, and at times also the most difficult. He combined a love of people, a broad intelligence, and graceful poetry into a rare force that touched many people and transcended his challenges. He never wavered in his struggle for independence, and that struggle is now over. Sandy passed away Saturday, Dec. 19, 2017.

Sandy was born in San Francisco Jan. 25, 1951, to Nancy Oyen and Robert Lewis. He was raised in La Crosse with his grandparents, Leighton N. and Faye Oyen. Originally from Trondheim, Norway, Sandy’s great-grandfather, Odin J. Oyen, was a well-respected artist and interior designer in the Midwest, and the Oyen family played an important role in the development of La Crosse. Sandy attended Aquinas HS, earned a BS degree in chemistry from UW-L, and was a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Michigan. He later earned an MBA from UW-L.

Sandy was a creative and quite intelligent person who combined an early interest in chemistry and computer science with research work at UW-L and at Michigan. Sandy was active in student government and later in local politics. He enjoyed a diverse circle of influential friends and associates, which continued until the end of his life, and his software projects kept him continually active.

Sandy’s drive for independence never declined in spite of his physical challenges; he was a familiar sight in La Crosse, traveling on his trusty motorized wheelchair in rain, sleet or snow. Sandy’s drive to be meaningful didn’t decline either, in spite of his emotional challenges. He was neither wealthy nor powerful; however, it can truly be said that his warmth and caring changed people’s lives. In turn, he received extraordinary acts of kindness and friendship from many people.

The public is invited to join a celebration of his life at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at the Rite-way Club 1500 Avon St. in La Crosse. Graveside services will follow. He is survived by his sister, Marilyn L. Nunes. Memorial gifts may be directed to Northside Community Church, 1828 Kane St., La Crosse, WI 54603.