Eddie Lewis, 51, who was the man behind the soda-fountain counter for the last 30 years at the Schwartz Pharmacy, died Saturday of cancer at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Mr. Lewis bought the fountain concession in 1951, after he had worked the grill and soda fountain at Schwartz's as an employee for five years.
The old-fashioned pharmacy at Connecticut Avenue and R Street NW, which has served the famous and the obscure in Washington for most of this century, is a city landmark.
"I suppose if I neaten it up, it'd fall flat on its face," Mr. Lewis told an interviewer in 1975. "It's a country store stuck in the middle of a city is what it is," he said, describing the lively, casually cluttered fountain and drugstore.
"He was a good man, honest as the day is long," Herman (Jake) Jacobs, the head pharmacist at the drugstore, said of Mr. Lewis. "A hard worker and friendly, no monkey business about him."
In a 1975 article about Schwartz's drugstore. The Washington Post described Mr. Lewis as he served a customer:
". . . A new customer stands by the cash register and orders chicken soup. Eddie Lewis . . . instantly yells Chknsoup." Down the row, whirls around once and deposits spoon, napkin and crackers before the new man. It happens so fast that he doesn't realize it's his. Eddie has to coach him when he presents the bowl a minute later, muttering in a voice that carries to Florida Avenue. "There's your chicken soup, my friend."
Mr. Lewis came to Washington in 1943 at age 18 from Newport, Tenn., where he was born. He worked with the government for about two years before he went to work for Schwartz's. He worked at the drugstore 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mr. Lewis's wife, Connie, who lived with her husband in Hyattsville, said he went to work at the drugstore because he and his friends, who all lived at a nearby rooming house, hung out around the pharmacy.
Mrs. Lewis met her husband at the drugstore when she was working as a nurse for two doctors on R Street.
"I'd run in the back door - grab a cup of coffee from him - and run out the front door and to work," Mrs. Lewis remembered yesterday. "He used to bring me double milkshakes because he said I was too thin."
Mrs. Lewis said her husband asked her to marry him in 1950, six months after she had made him promise that he would take her out if it snowed on a certain night. It snowed.
Last October, ill with cancer, Mr. Lewis sold the fountain concession at the drugstore.
In addition to his wife, Connie, of the home, he is survived by a son, Michael, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; a daughter, Patricia, of Hyattsville; his mother, Una V. Lewis, a brother, William B., two sisters. Ruby Marion and Linda, all of Newport, Tenn., and another sister, Jean Boyd, of Sanford, Fla.