Newton Lee Wesley “Lee” Born 12-9-1940, Portland OR; Died of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 11-28-2019, Chicago, IL
Lee and his family were among the many American-born citizens of Japanese descent branded as “enemy aliens,” forcibly relocated from their homes on the West Coast, and incarcerated during World War II in Minidoka, ID. After the war they resettled in Chicago where his father founded Wesley-Jessen The Plastic Contact Lens Company. Driven by a deep sense of family responsibility Lee pursued a BS in engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Chicago in preparation for work at Wesley-Jessen. He started in sales and then became manager of the research department until the company was sold in 1980. Commitment to the financial security of his extended family continued as he managed their investment portfolios. He became President of the Dr. Newton K. Wesley Foundation Fund, which with his brother, Roy Wesley, has been placing WJ documents and artifacts in repositories and funding contact lens research.
The sale of Wesley-Jessen allowed Lee the freedom to pursue a passion for learning that lasted his whole life. Intensely interested in theological study, he completed his Doctor of Ministry degree at Chicago Theological Seminary in 1983. Then he went to film school at Columbia College, producing short films with fellow students as actors. Lee joined a group of adult learners at the University of Chicago who spent many years dissecting the Japanese novel, “Tale of Genji” set in 11th century Japanese court. Then Lee took to his own writing, trying playwriting and later poetry through online courses.
Lee and his wife, Victoria Granacki were married in 1977 and lived in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. He was an attentive and involved father to his son, Matthew Wesley, and daughter, Monica Wesley. During Matt’s school years Lee traveled the US with his hockey teams. As Monica began developing her art and fashion talents, he provided encouragement for her Uye Surana lingerie business with many pleasant trips to New York. He delighted in his two grandchildren, Lauren and Luke, attending school games and events, or just getting together to play Chinese checkers or Legos.
Art collecting started as a quest for a painting to hang over a pink brocade couch. It became an obsession for over 40 years, spurring trips to art shows, galleries, and artists’ studio visits in Chicago, New York and Miami, especially with his daughter and son-in-law. Lee was an avid weekly tennis player with a tight group of friends at McFetridge Sports Center. Later he took up golf and got his first hole in one in 2018. Both sports inspired him to collect books and various instructional tapes to improve his games.
Lee is survived by his wife, Victoria Granacki, son Matthew Wesley (Sara Wesley and grandchildren Lauren and Luke Wesley) daughter Monica Wesley (Robert Westerholm) brother Roy Wesley (Mark Weber), brother Morgan (Jaida) Wesley; sister Shona Wesley; sister Justine (Austin) Altman, sister Jenna (Kevin) Williams, and brother Taylor (Viviana) Wesley; brother and sister-in-law James and Marlene Granacki, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. He was a gentle and kind man, beloved by his family, admired and respected by extended family and friends.
Visitation will be at Cooney Funeral Home, 3918 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60618 Friday December 13, 4-9pm. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 am at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 Saturday December 14, preceded at 9 am with visitation at the church. Interment will be at St. Adalbert Cemetery in Niles, IL. Donations or memorials can be made to the funeral home and will be directed by the family at a later date. Info 773-588-5850 www.cooneyfuneralhome.com
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