The icon, who had seven children, had an odd relationship with his kids, most of whom accused him of being an abusive father.
His relationship with his youngest son, Joseph Lewis, who he later disowned, was perhaps the most complicated. After leaving his father’s wings, Joseph’s life seemed to take a downward spiral until his death at forty-five.
Born to the iconic comedian and former singer Patti Palmer, Jerry’s first wife, Joseph Lewis’ life was once a fortress of fame and fortune. As the youngest son of their brood, Joseph easily became the apple of his dad’s eyes.
Coupled with their similar phenotype and passion for the arts, the duo seemed inseparable, or so it seemed to the world, until a shocking revelation. In 1989, Joseph granted an interview with National Enquirer, where he accused his dad of beating his kids.
Jerry’s son described growing up with the icon as “pure hell” so much that he doubted his dad ever loved him. Following The interview, Jerry disowned his son and cut all ties with him.
Even after his son’s death, the Hollywood legend never forgave him but continued nursing years of hatred. Joseph’s ex-wife, Kim, revealed the actor hated his son so much, he refused to sponsor his funeral.
Joseph believed his dad despised him on account of his gender. He revealed the actor always wanted a daughter and became disappointed when his last kid also turned out to be a boy after his birth in 1964.
His dad’s treatment drove him to drugs, alcoholism, and endless therapy sessions which eventually became his downfall.
During his teenage years, Joseph began using drugs and alcohol as an outlet and a means of coping with his ordeal. As he grew older, it became difficult for him to hold a steady job due to his addiction.
Eventually, he developed manic depression, a condition that left him battling his demons. Kim, who shared two sons with him, recalled how Joseph spent hours sorting baseball cards or locked inside for days, deep asleep.
IT ONLY GOT WORSE
At the height of his suffering, Joseph tried severally to reach out to his father, sometimes sending him letters on the annual telethon for Jerry’s kids. But those letters always returned unopened.
Unable to retain a job, Joseph drifted from place to place, eventually becoming penniless. At the time, his three-year marriage to Kim had ended.
At some point in his painful sojourn, Joseph lived in a Los Angeles model but eventually ran out of money to pay for his room. The homeless man was forced to acquire a bunk in a church’s homeless shelter.
After struggling for years, Joseph Lewis finally passed away on October 24, 2009, after suffering a sudden heart seizure. The autopsy report revealed he died from acute morphine intoxication.
He died in Utah, far away from his family. Speaking on his death, Kim voiced fears that her Kids’ father, who never wanted to be alone, may have ended up dying alone.
Neither of the former couple’s two sons had a relationship with their grandfather and only ever got to see him on TV.
WHO KILLED JOSEPH?
Following Joseph’s death, his oldest brother, Gary Lewis, called out their dad for abandoning his youngest son, which invariably led to his death.
The pop star insisted that if his dad had not cut ties with him two decades back due to his growing drug addiction, his health would not have declined to such an extent.
During an interview, Gary explained that the legend’s neglect led Joseph to have problems his entire life. According to him, the neglect and abandonment made the father of seven responsible for his death.
JERRY’S THOUGHTS ON SON’S DEATH
Notably, Jerry has denied Joseph’s claims of abuse and maltreatment. He also deems himself not responsible for his son’s death, contrary to Gary’s claims. Addressing Joseph’s passing, the legendary singer once divulged:
“To this day, I don’t understand it because it’s unfair. Not unfair to me, but unfair to him. That he went that way made the unfairness stupidity. But he’s my son, and he’s gone.”
Despite knowing he could do nothing about the loss, Jerry admitted he sometimes beat himself up. Thankfully, he had his wife of over three decades, Sam, by his side.
She always reminded him he was not to blame for his son’s death. After all, the young man was already 25 when he let him roam the world alone, supposedly abandoning him.
The comedy legend passed away in 2017, after years of battling illnesses like prostate cancer, heart disease, and pulmonary fibrosis. He died of natural causes.
He was 91 at the time and left behind a will that shocked the world, proving him somewhat the evil junkie his kids painted him to be.
At the time of his death, the legend seemed to be on bad terms with his five living sons and made sure they never got to have a piece of his estate and vast empire.
In his last will, dated 2012, the humanitarian bluntly stated he was “intentionally excluding” his sons, Christopher, Gary, Ronald, Anthony, and Scott, as well as his deceased son, Joseph, from benefiting from his estate in any way.
Instead, he left his vast empire to his widow, SanDee, and in her absence, their adopted daughter Danielle. The will created an uproar at the time, with more people becoming interested in the complicated details of his family life and relationship with his six kids from his first wife, Patti Palmer.
Perhaps, Joseph’s son, Bobby Lewis’ take on the legendary comedian, better describes himꟷ A funny person with a dark side.