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Surprise ceremony honors WWI veteran

November 11, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

WILLIAMSPORT - During World War I, Lewis Powell left high school in his junior year to join the Army.

On Thursday, veterans and dignitaries honored him as possibly Washington County's only living veteran of that war.

"You're a great American," state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, told Powell.

"I try to be at least average," Powell, 99, responded. "I didn't do anything that anyone else wouldn't have done."

To surprise him with the Veterans Day ceremony, Powell's friends told him they were taking him to the Eastern Shore.

Instead, they drove him to American Legion Post 202 in Williamsport.

Williamsport Mayor John Slayman declared Thursday "Lewis Powell Day" and about 100 guests at the ceremony gave Powell a standing ovation.

He received congratulatory gifts, including a proclamation from the Maryland Senate and a citation from Gov. Parris Glendening, which will join other service-related mementos in a corner of his living room.

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Powell has been a member of the Maryland Veterans Commission for 20 years, said Munson.

There may be other World War I veterans in the county, but Powell is the only one using veterans' services, Munson said.

His daughter, Esther Powell Porter of Lansdowne, Va., said her father has devoted time to veterans' and church organizations.

"I think that everybody that knows my dad feels proud of him," she said.

Powell was born in Wheeling, W.Va., in January 1900, the fifth of nine children.

He had to lie about his age in order to enlist in the Army, but he never saw battle. When the Armistice came, Powell was in training with Company K of the 50th Infantry at Camp Sevier in South Carolina.

His company was sent to Germany and northern Europe. Powell was a company supply sergeant when he was discharged in 1920.

He made a career with the Railway Mail Service and later the Highway Postal Office bus, spending 22 years on the Harrisburg-to-Winchester mail run.

Powell and his wife, Olive, who died in April, were volunteers with senior citizen programs.

As he has since 1942, Powell lives on Coffman Avenue in Halfway.

A worker for veterans' rights and benefits, Powell is a past commander of the local Reno Barracks No. 152, Veterans of World War I, and past state commander of that organization.

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