Those attending our 40th anniversary class reunion in the summer of 2003 were fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit with Jeff Lewis, who made the trip down from his home in Seattle for the occasion. One of my closest friends from San Marino days, he topped the list of people I most wanted to see there, as we now lived half a continent apart and had not met face to face in many years. It was a joy to find him the same warm and engaging guy I had known so well back in the early 1960s. How could either of us have guessed, as we reminisced and shared stories of our families and careers, that before too long he would be diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer?
I met Jeff again, over brunch in Seattle, during the Christmas holidays of 2012. By then, he had disclosed his condition to me and shared his mixed feelings about undergoing chemotherapy. As it turned out, he would have another 2 ½ years to live. Rather than bemoaning his situation, he stressed his gratitude at feeling as well as he still did then, and his talk was all about the good things in his life: his wife Tris, their three grown sons, and three grandchildren, all of whom lived not far from his home and were, of course, his pride and joy.
Ultimately, Jeff passed away on June 2, 2015. However, knowing his fate so far in advance, he had time to make arrangements for how the event would be experienced by his family and friends. It was typical of Jeff that he focused on this rather than on his own suffering and its inevitable conclusion. He and Tris had built their “dream cabin” along the waterfront near the town of Chelan in eastern Washington, and this became the favored site of outdoor fun with family and friends enjoying boating, skiing, sunning, grillin’, and camping outdoors. Jeff and Tris enjoyed two good summers there, and he was even able to make a final visit just a few months before the end.
He had arranged for there to be a “celebration of life” at this venue just weeks after his death, an occasion on which, in Tris’ words, “we had a wonderful day of remembrances with many fine, inspirational and sometimes funny tales of Jeff’s life. Over 200 people came, and only a few were family. He touched, taught, inspired and encouraged many people both in his career with the City of Seattle and with the years of work within AA.” In August, she continues, “per Jeff’s wishes, about 50 family members held a 3 day camping and water fun weekend to disburse his ashes at the cabin . . . he so loved. Jeff would have been thrilled to see the property being used as he envisioned—as a great family playground.”
Gifted athlete, loyal friend, unfailingly humble guy notwithstanding all his many accomplishments, solid family man and community leader, inspiration to all who knew him—Jeff will be warmly remembered and dearly missed.
SMHS Class of ‘63