Peg Lewis was only 13, but she clearly remembers the day she first saw her father depicted in stained glass.
It was Dec. 6, 1964. That day, High Park United Church officially dedicated a majestic, 10-foot high stained glass window entitled, The Sower. It has stood in glory above the front entrance on Brenchley Street the past 64 years.
But High Park Church closed its doors forever on June 24, casting the fate of the building, its congregation and the Phil Lewis window into doubt.
The window is dominated by the image of Jesus Christ, who holds a container of seed in his left hand. With his right, Christ scatters seeds in a scene reminiscent of the parable Jesus told his disciples.
Clustered at the bottom is a group of children of various ages. They represent the youth of High Park – particularly those taught in the church’s Sunday school services – of which Peg’s father, the late Phil Lewis, was superintendent.
And standing in the far right hand corner of the window is Phil Lewis himself, in a resemblance to the living man so arresting parishioners still remark on it to this day.
For Peg Lewis and her three brothers, the window’s fate is very personal.
On Nov. 29, 1963, in what is still the worst air disaster on Canadian soil involving a Canadian aircraft, 118 men and women plunged to the earth at a thunderous speed four minutes after departing Dorval Airport for Toronto on a cold and rainy night.
The impact of the nearly new Trans-Canada DC-8 in a field at Ste.-Therese de Blainville opened a crater six feet deep and 150 feet wide and shattered every window within a kilometre.
Sarnia, a city still reeling from the Kennedy assassination one week earlier, was stunned to learn that among the 118 victims were five employees of the Polymer Rubber Corporation, including Phil Lewis.
So little was left of the aircraft that accident investigators were never able to determine the cause of the crash. After the disaster, flight data and cockpit voice recorders – the so-called “black boxes” – were added to Canadian aircraft for the first time.
A memorial service for Phil Lewis was held at High Park. According to Peg, two weeks later, workers at the crash site recovered his remains. The church was packed with mourners for his funeral services.
Today, the Phil Lewis window is an evocative piece of Sarnia history written in stained glass, but the ultimate fate of it is now unknown.