Dennis Lewis, 66, inspired family, Central community with love of life

Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 10:16pm

The Central community is mourning the loss of one of its business leaders.

Dennis Lewis passed away Wednesday morning of cancer at the age of 66.

His family started Lewis Wrecking Services in the 1956, and it became the first business in the city.

But it was his personality, as much as his family history, that made him a beloved figure.

"He cared for everybody that he came in touch with," said his daughter Michelle.

And Dennis Lewis met a lot of people.

He started learning the tow truck business at his father's side when Dennis Lewis was 10 years old. Towing is a dangerous business with no glory, but he loved it. And since the company carried his father's name, he took special care to be both a good driver and a good citizen.

"You take pride in your name, and you never dirty your name," Michelle Lewis said of the lessons Dennis Lewis taught her. "And you treat people right, and the way you want to be treated."

A stroke in November led to the cancer diagnosis. He was able to briefly come home twice: once for the annual Christmas parade at the start of December, and for Christmas.

"And my dad was there with all of his friends and family, and he had a really great time," Michelle Lewis said.

The parade was one of his favorite events of the year. He always drove the parade floats, and built the display that carried Santa Claus. But since he was unable to participate in this year's parade, Central rerouted it down Joor Road so he could watch it from his front yard.

The Lewis family has been overwhelmed by the community's support since Wednesday, amazed how quickly everyone knew of Dennis Lewis' passing.

"Everyone (said), you know, 'he's one in a million,' and 'he will be missed,'" Michelle Lewis said. "One guy said, 'the community of Central will never be the same.'"

Dennis Lewis' love of trucks extended beyond his profession. He had a room in his house filled with toy trucks. And one of his favorite experiences was a visit to the International Towing & Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN.

"It was amazing to see his face when he talked about it," Michelle Lewis said, "because he finally got to see something that he loved so much."

Lewis' story is also one of legacy. He took over the company from his father in 1980, and continued to run it with his wife and daughter.

Now his grandson is also behind the wheel of a blue, Lewis truck. But the company won't be the only thing that keeps Dennis' memory alive.

"How will my granddaughter, his great-granddaughter, ever know what a wonderful man he was? And someone told me, 'from the stories that other people will tell her."

They will know through his family, as well. He trained all of them at work, and they have no plans to close the business. Michelle Lewis also sees many of her father's characteristics in her son.

"My dad and my son share the same kind of sense of humor. They both love to laugh and enjoy life."

Michelle Lewis said her father passed away with his family by his side, but only after his grandson left on a towing call.

"That's the way he wanted it. He didn't want my son to see him that way, he didn't want to scare him or anything.

"He was the greatest. Absolutely the greatest. And he lives on in all of us."

The family will hold a wake Monday, January 21, at Greenoaks Funeral Home in Baton Rouge from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.

"My daddy loved a show," Michelle Lewis said. "So anybody, if you come, he would love it."

A viewing will occur the following morning before a service at 10 a.m. He will then be laid to rest at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Baker.

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