James “Jim” Lewanski passed away October 16, 2022 after a long battle with several Agent
Orange - related cancers.
Jim was born in Buffalo, NY and raised in the nearby historic village of Williamsville. A top
student, he was his troop’s first Eagle Scout, the first president of his parish’s CYO, and the
captain of its first basketball team.
Jim graduated from the University of Notre Dame, Class of 1965. Via the ROTC program, he
was commissioned as an officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers. After attending the
Engineer Officer School at Ft. Belvoir, VA, he was assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC as a construction
engineer. It was there that he met and married his wife Mary Ellen Edge after a whirlwind
Jim served a tour of duty in Southern Vietnam, where he supervised the building of roads and
pipeline facilities all over the country. He was also instrumental in supporting a remote Catholic
orphanage rescuing babies and little ones abandoned by enemy raids on their villages. He was
awarded the South Vietnam Civic Action Medal of Honor First Class, and RVN Cross of
Returning to Ft. Bragg, Jim was promoted to Captain and served as Operations Officer of the
160 Engr. Group, XVIII Airborne Corps.
Settling in San Diego, he worked briefly for the City of San Diego, then went into private
practice. In 1980, he founded Baseline Engineering in El Cajon, where he provided engineering
and surveying services for private and public projects, including the US Navy in San Diego, the
US Army at Ft. Irwin, CA, and the USAF at Nellis AFB in Nevada.
In 1994, Jim was elected to the Board of Directors of the Helix Water District, where served as
Board President. He also served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Water
Authority, and as an officer on several engineering and water-related organizations.
After retirement, Jim spent his time tending to his extensive collection of tropical plants and
flowers in what he liked to call his own personal Garden of Eden, and cheering on his beloved
Fighting Irish teams.
He is survived by Mary Ellen, his wife of 56 years of La Mesa; a stepson, Christopher (Annie)
Magill and granddaughter Meghan Taylor Magill of Spring Valley; daughter, Jeanne Lewanski
(Michael) Langen and grandsons, Alexander James and Nicholas John of Henderson, NV, and
sisters, Michele Watts of Palm Desert; Margaret Mary (David) Vinnedge of Upland; Judith
(Steve) Shewry of San Diego; and Dr. Lynne (Brandon) Curry of Champaign, IL.
A funeral mass will be held at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in La Mesa, CA. Interment
with Honors at Miramar National Cemetery.