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Lisa Helmuth Teague

Ralph Lewin was a strong presence in my childhood and my father just told me of his death.

Ralph and my father, Esperantist Frank Helmuth, were great friends. They were linked not only by the Esperanto movement, but also by an deep and essential curiosity about the complex workings of the world.

When I was in elementary school I considered it a wonderful treat to visit Ralph in his office at Scripps Institute and take in all that was going on there. He answered my incessant questions patiently in English or in Esperanto depending on where our conversation ranged.

I would like to share one special memory of Ralph Lewin.

In the mid 1960s Ralph's lab at Scripps contained a saltwater aquarium in which resided three small octopi. I remember their agile movements and my fascination with their watery world. But the best thing would be going outside with Ralph and finding earthworms to feed to the octopi.

We were quite a pair, a small blonde girl in a sundress walking seriously next to the British microbiologist clad in shirt, shorts, long socks and sandals, warm in the sunshine of a La Jolla afternoon. Both of us gazing intently at the ground, then pouncing and grubbing in the soft earth when the worm was spotted. Popping our prey into a jar and moving on with the hunt. Returning to the lab, we would feed the octopi and Ralph would talk of looking for small things in the sea and read to me from Winnie-La-Pu and other Esperanto children's books.

He was a great scientist and a great Esperantist. I had not seen him for many years, but those afternoons at Scripps will be with me always.

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