Friday, March 18, 2022

In Memoriam: Jack C. Lewis, Jr.

Jack C. Lewis, Jr.
May 23, 1922 - February 27, 2022

Jack Lewis, a Bend resident since 1967, packed as much as he could into every minute of his 99 years and 240 days on this planet. He died February 27, 2022, diminished by blindness, hearing loss and a mind that played tricks on him, but he was no less the man who fiercely loved his family, fought for his country and worshiped his God.

One enduring theme that ran through his life was his love of speed - whether in an automobile, plane or boat. In 1939, in his hometown of Healdsburg, California, he outran a police car in his hopped-up Model A, only to learn that the police officer was his dad, Jack C. Lewis Sr., who took young Jack's license away for a year.

He earned his pilot's license while still in high school and years later would hold a world speed record. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he flew a P-38 Lightning fighter on 109 missions in the Pacific, including over China, Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines. He is credited with shooting down three Japanese Zeros and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. He relived his war stories to the end, often with regret for the terrible loss of life he witnessed.

After he returned home in late 1944, he went to Alaska to fish, hunt and fly, owned an airport in Novato, California, and taught dozens of people to fly until he was called back for the Korean War in 1950. The Air Force sent Lt. J.C. Lewis to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he test-piloted F-86 Saber jets. On Aug. 18, 1951, he and three fellow pilots set a world speed record by flying the 237 miles from Chicago to Detroit in 21 minutes at 672 mph, a record they held for only two weeks.

In 1952, he left the Air Force and moved his wife Clara and their newborn daughter Lee to Ukiah, California, where the next three children - Kathy, Chuck and Jim - were born. The family later moved to Lake Tahoe, Portland, and Lakeview, finally ending up in Bend in 1967 where Jack worked as a realtor and ranch appraiser until he retired in his 80s.

He flew air ambulance and fire watch in Lakeview, including over Camp Cottonwood where he'd drop supplies with a note that said: "Smokey the Bear is watching Lee and Kathy Lewis to make sure their beds are made." In Bend, he owned several planes, including a 300 hp turbocharged Bellanca Viking, and occasionally buzzed his home on Dekalb Avenue at low altitude, a signal that he needed a ride home from the Bend Airport.

In 1975, he brokered a rare real estate deal on the Metolius Arm of Lake Billy Chinook for individuals eager to build summer homes there. He couldn't afford his own lot, but the kindness of the seller let him make payments, resulting in lakefront acreage where the family built a cabin over several years, doing most of the work themselves. Four generations of Lewises have spent summers there. Stories and adventures abound but one favorite is how Jack would pull his 300 hp Seaswirl (his substitute for a Corvette) alongside another boater and casually challenge the driver to a race. He'd stay neck and neck until the last moment when he'd throttle up, leaving the competitor in his wake and laughing all the way back to the cabin.

Jack's family remembers how he loved animals, especially small black poodles. They recall how he drove faster than reasonable on gravel roads, was early for everything and didn't like landing a plane for someone who had to pee. For a guy who owned a lake cabin, he rarely got in the water and preferred blowing off the decks and getting up early to wash dishes and watch eagles and osprey perform aerobatics over the lake. He drank his coffee black and despised pink. If a grandchild accidentally hit him in the head with a frisbee, he'd burn it in the woodstove. He was a jokester and loved telling stories, especially off-color ones that sometimes caused people to squirm.

He skied at Mt. Bachelor and occasionally golfed but had no real hobbies except "dinking around," whether at the cabin or planting and nurturing trees and then obsessively raking pine needles and cones to help prevent forest fire at the house he and Clara built on Bend's westside in 1981. They sold the home in 2019 and moved to Touchmark.

He was one of the oldest members of Central Oregon Band of Brothers and was able to go with the Honor Flight of Eastern Oregon to Washington, D.C. in 2011. He was a member of the Westside Church and a men's bible study group.

He's survived by his wife of 71 years, Clara Burnham Lewis; children Lee Lewis Husk and husband Dave; and their three children Lindsey, Casey and Jake Husk; Kathy Lewis and her four children Jessica Lloyd, Elizabeth Haase, Katy Wilhelm and Zachary Lloyd; Chuck Lewis and wife Eliza, and children Max and Ann Lewis; and Jim Lewis and wife Pam, and their two children, Andrea and Samantha Lewis. In addition, he left seven great-grandchildren: Jonathan Lloyd; Griffin and Orion Haase; Clara and Olivia Wilhelm; Finley Bah Bioh; and Kamilo Diego.

Dad, we miss you terribly, but we'll save you a seat at the pancake house.

A celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m., April 2, Westside Church, 2051 NW Shevlin Park Rd, Bend, with a reception to follow. Memorial contributions can be made to Partners in Care of Bend.

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