With balloons and flowers and a poetry reading, a group of Princeton residents dedicated a new wooden bench across from the Princeton Public Library Sunday afternoon in honor of a local activist.
More than 30 people attended the ceremony to dedicate the bench in memory of Eleanor Lewis, who lived in the borough for many years.
Lewis died last November at the age of 68 after battling ovarian cancer for almost a decade. Family members, friends and people from various organizations she worked with chipped in to buy the bench as a way to honor her.
A lawyer who worked with Ralph Nader for several years, Lewis championed various causes at the local, state and national level, including women’s rights, consumer rights and environmental sustainability.
She was hired as the first executive director for NJPIRG in 1972. While working at NJPIRG, she investigated New Jersey’s no-fault auto insurance system and the composition of the New Jersey Blue Cross board of trustees. In 1973, she was hired by Brendan Bryne’s gubenatorial campaign, and after Bryne won, she worked on the transition team. She was then hired by Insurance Commissioner James J. Sheeran to serve as the Assistant Commissioner of Insurance for Consumer Services, where she supervised investigations of consumer complaints and hearings.
Lewis was active in local politics even as she battled cancer, and was an outspoken critic of the recent property tax revaluation of the two Princetons. She sometimes attended borough council meetings the day after chemotherapy treatments, despite barely being able to stand because of the weakness caused by medical treatments, in order to point out problems she saw with town policies and decisions.
Her estate is helping fund several lawsuits, including a suit about Princeton University tax exempt property, the possible move of the Dinky train station, and a forthcoming suit challenging how the Princeton property revaluation was conducted.
“Being involved with town issues helped keep her going,” her brother Arthur Lutzke said before the ceremony.
Friends said the placement of the bench across from the library would have pleased Lewis, who loved to read and to be engaged in the community.