Robert E. Lewis, a former Montauk carpenter, rental cottage operator, commercial fisherman, and fishing tackle inventor, died in Rye, N.H., on Dec. 26 of cerebral lymphoma, his family said. Mr. Lewis, who was 93, divided his time between Montauk and Cudjoe Key, Fla.
He was born on Nov. 17, 1920, in Brooklyn, the second of five children of Robert Edwin Lewis Sr. and the former Mary Maier. He attended Brooklyn public schools.
As a child, he walked the railroad tracks before dawn to collect any coal that had fallen off the 3 a.m. freight train. He raised laboratory animals in the family’s Flatbush Avenue basement to sell for a penny each. After school he unloaded railcars for one or two pennies, money he gave to his parents to help pay the bills.
He learned the crafts of cabinetry and millwork while working in his father’s cabinet shop. In the warmer months he would roller-skate to the Brooklyn docks and beaches to fish.
In 1942, Mr. Lewis enlisted in the Navy Seabees, serving at Naval Air Station Kodiak in Alaska. From there he was sent to the Pacific, building a mess hall and auxiliary buildings at the Navy base on Saipan Island and aircraft hangers on Okinawa Island. In August 1945, Mr. Lewis received orders for Operation Olympic, the ground invasion of southern Japan, which never took place due to Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15. He was honorably discharged on Nov. 3, 1945.
In 1948, Mr. Lewis married Marjorie Helen Pugh, and in 1951 they bought property on East Lake Drive in Montauk. Between 1951 and 1966, Mr. Lewis worked for Fort Pond Construction as a carpenter, on projects that included Montauk Manor, the Montauk Lighthouse, and Dick Cavett’s cliffside house.
During this time, Mr. Lewis turned the two agricultural buildings on his Montauk property into rental cabins and built four duplexes resulting in the 10-unit Margie’s Cottages. Active in the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, he successfully marketed his business by providing free skiffs and rowboats to renters, as well as tips for a successful day on the water. In the evenings, Mr. Lewis would fish for bluefish and striped bass from his 19-foot dory, Margie.
Margie’s Cottages was sold in 1968, and Mr. Lewis became a commercial fisherman. He developed a close relationship with Capt. Harry Standard, and the two were often seen anchored together at the Elbow, each fishing alone from their own vessels, the Ghost and the Margie II.
From the early 1980s on, Mr. Lewis focused on striped bass and bluefish, occasionally venturing out for bluefin tuna and fluke. Around the docks he was known as Bluefish Bob for his prodigious catches.
Also in the early 1980s, Mr. Lewis and Margie bought a waterfront home in Cudjoe Key, Fla. He spent winters hand-lining for yellowtail snapper and grouper. He was active in the Venture Out Yacht Club, where he was a perennial winner in the annual fishing tournament.
Mr. Lewis enjoyed telling stories, and one he cherished was set in the mid-1960s when, single-handedly, he landed a 55-pound striped bass from his dory. Standing on the seat, he held the fish for a photograph while on the way home. Taken by Capt. Frank Moss, it was printed in Field and Stream magazine.
In addition to his wife of 65 years, Mr. Lewis is survived by two sons, Walter Lewis of Portsmouth, N.H., and Robert Lewis of Lexington Park, Md., two grandchildren, and three sisters, Mary Jenson of Boynton Beach, Fla., Martha Gavey of Copiague, and Nancy Mitchell of Lakewood, N.J. Another sister, Betty Raab, died before him.
Memorial donations have been suggested to the Montauk Community Church, P.O. Box 698, Montauk 11954.
His ashes will be dispersed at sea east of the Montauk Lighthouse. A memorial celebration will be announced.