J. Richard Lewis
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February 29, 1936 - November 11, 2020
James Richard Ray Lewis was not a native son of Bagdad, Florida, but this community was central to his identity. Born in Camilla, Georgia, he settled in Bagdad just as World War II was beginning. He was the last of six children of Sirmon Greene Lewis and Mary Myrtle Gregory. They lived on Forsyth Street, and he was shaped by family and this community for his entire life.
Richard was the baby of the family, and after his brother Bobby, the oldest was tragically killed in a Navy training accident, he became even more precious to his parents and sisters, Faye, Ina, Ann, and Joan. With Richard’s passing, only Joan Baxley remains of their generation.
Richard graduated from Milton High School in 1958, Mercer University in 1962, and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. He maintained close friendships with his schoolmates throughout his life, including D.C. McComb, Billy Simmons, and Mickey McNair. In 1958, Richard married his high school sweetheart, Betty June Bishop, the principal’s daughter, who lived just down the street.
Richard and Betty set off on careers in education, with a first job in the public schools of Venice, Florida. After a teacher’s strike, they moved to Frederick, Maryland, where Richard began his career as a secondary school administrator. They flourished with their three children: Tony, Shelley, and Catherine. In 1982, Richard became deputy superintendent in Ft. Myers (Florida) and later in Yorktown (Virginia), completing his career as the leader of an educational foundation at Johns Hopkins University.
While Richard was at Hopkins in Baltimore, Betty relocated to Bagdad to be with her mother, Vernetta Bishop. In 2000, she and Richard built their dream home on Church Street. With a plethora of hobbies from fishing to sports cars, to woodworking and gardening, Richard and Betty put their hearts into the Bagdad Village Preservation Association, the Bagdad Mill Site Park, Waterfronts, and dozens of other passions.
Alas, their heyday was too brief as Betty developed cancer that she fought for almost a decade before finally succumbing in 2012. He never really got over the loss, but gamely continued on, seeing the Bagdad Mill Site Park opened to great fanfare. He helped achieve the vision of reclaiming land that had been at the center of this community for almost 200 years.
In his later years, Richard was always good for a cruise, a trip to the casino, and entertaining the endless stream of visitors and relatives with stories and insults that were as elaborate as they were affectionate. He could always be counted upon to teach poker to a new in-law or grandchild. James Richard Ray Lewis was a good man and true. He had the great fortune of finding true love, serving mankind, raising a successful family, and pursuing his own passions. He will live in our hearts and memory.
He is survived by his son Richard Anthony Lewis, wife Jae-Hwan Shin, and children Colin and Christian; daughter Shelley Andrew, husband Bill, and children Benjamin and Sarah; and daughter Catherine Lewis, husband John Companiotte, and child Emma Companiotte; his sister Joan Baxley, his beloved dog, Lexi, and dozens of nieces, nephews, cousins, and other extended family and friends. Trahan Funeral Home in Milton has helped coordinate his burial.
The family will host an outdoor, socially-distanced memorial service on Sunday, November 29, 2020, at 12:00 p.m. at 6865 Allen Street in Bagdad, Florida. Donations in his honor can be made to the Bagdad Village Preservation Association at 4512 Church Street, Bagdad, Florida, 32583. If you need further information, please contact Catherine Lewis at email@example.com.