By Scott Halasz
XENIA — She was a teacher, a public servant, an accomplished pilot and to her many grandchildren, the “Mamaw” of all chickens.
But to those who knew Brenda Kay Lewis, she was a friend.
Lewis — who dabbled in many different things — died Sept. 11 at her Xenia home. Born in Mt. Ash, Ky., Lewis, 71, graduated from Cumberland College when she was 19 and began teaching. She retired from Beavercreek City Schools after 34 years, teaching every grade in elementary school except third.
“She loved teaching and she loved children and I will tell you that Brenda Lewis was the most impeccably dressed teacher in the school, bar none,” said Greene County Juvenile Court Judge Adolfo Tornichio, who attended the school at which Lewis taught. “Chalk dust never stuck to her.”
Lewis was also known to don “period clothing” and teach at the Collins School after she retired. In her spare time, Lewis was a 4-H advisor and avid gardener, canning her own vegetables every summer. She also held a private pilot’s license and in 1982 landed her plane on one wheel when the landing gear failed and didn’t wake up her daughter or dog, both of whom were aboard.
Later in life. Lewis made her biggest contributions to Greene County serving as chairman of the Greene County Republican Party for 12 years and as a member of the Greene County Board of Elections for nearly 12 years, stepping down earlier this year.
“We were on opposite sides of the (political) table but she operated in a truly bi-partisan fashion,” said Greene County Board of Elections Deputy Director Llyn McCoy, fighting to contain her emotions. “We got to know each other personally from going to conferences. I count her among my dearest friends. I can’t imagine working an election without her. She will be sorely missed.”
Lewis worked with Attorney General Mike DeWine on all of his campaigns, dating back to his election as Greene County Prosecutor in the 1970s. But the Lewis and DeWine families had more than a political relationship.
“The Lewis family is just like part of our family,” DeWine said. “We are very close to them. That’s what kind of a blow this is for us. Brenda was an amazing Republican leader for the party. She did a good job on the board of elections. I know among elected officials state-wide how very well respected she was.”
Lewis also volunteered her time at the cancer and heart associations and literacy awareness programs. She loved to travel, making numerous trips to India, but her favorite destination was her home, where she could spend time with her family and grandchildren, who affectionately referred to her as “Mamaw Chicken.”
And of course, Lewis also made time for friends.
“She helped me with my children, helped me make my pies, test my recipes, visit courthouses, prepare presents for Haiti school kids and everything else a friend can do,” long-time friend Fran DeWine said via Facebook. “I will miss her friendship, her advice, her help, and I will miss just having coffee with her.”
Lewis is survived by her husband of 51 years, Ronald L. Lewis; children: Ronald C. and Amy Lewis of Xenia Township and Christy Lee and Brendan Comerford of Yellow Springs and six grandchildren. Funeral Services will be held 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at Faith Community United Methodist Church, 100 Country Club Drivea with Pastor Rick Tettau officiating. Friends may call from 2 p.m. Thursday until the time of the service at the church.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.