Longtime Islander, Rotarian passes away at age 91

Lewis was one of local Rotary chapter’s founders.

Chris Lewis recalls his dad as a man flowing with kindness, fairness, generosity and volunteerism. He was a stellar athlete, dentist and world traveler to more than 80 countries.

Dr. Robert (Bob) Lewis, longtime Mercer Island resident and a founding member of the Rotary Club of Mercer Island, passed away from natural causes at the age of 91 on March 12. Bob moved to the Island in 1941 with his parents, Porter and Ruth Lewis, and lived there almost continuously — except for his two years in the service — until he died. He resided at the Aljoya retirement community for the last 11 years.

“He was a really conciliatory, wonderful human being. Just a really nice person and would always kind of acquiesce to other people and do what they wanted,” said Chris, who delved into his days as a youth to explain his dad’s tireless nature and devotion to his family, “I remember him every night after work — which I appreciated more once I started working — he would go pitch baseballs to me so I could become a better hitter. Even though you’re exhausted at the end of work, he would do whatever it was to be with his kids.”

After receiving his early schooling in nearby cities, Bob headed to the University of Washington for his undergraduate studies and then attended dental school to receive his DDS (doctor of dental surgery) degree. For 37 years, Bob ran his own dental practice on the Island, selling it to dentist Chris in 1986 and then retiring in 1997.

Chris, who is now retired and living in Bellevue, said his dad windsurfed and skied into his 70s, and while traveling, he volunteered dental treatment to citizens of Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica, according to Bob’s obituary. Bob’s obituary also noted that he was active at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue and strongly supported copious liberal causes.

Bob once told his daughter Robin Lewis West that he had achieved everything he always wanted in his life.

“He was a really caring, loving person and he did a lot for other people. People just loved him,” said Lewis West, adding that a friend said Bob was the dad everyone wanted to have.

Lewis West, who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles and designs costumes for television shows, noted that Bob was a supportive and funny man who spent countless hours volunteering on outreach projects.

“He was just the best dad you could ever have in every category. He was just the perfect dad. Him and mom even went to see the Rolling Stones once because they wanted to see what all the excitement was about,” she said.

On the Rotary front, Bob helped found the local chapter in 1963 and took part in a video interview on Feb. 7 of this year with Rotary members to discuss the chapter’s formation and his contributions during his lengthy involvement with the club. Bob, who held the club president position from 1968-69, was humble about his Rotary history during the interview, according to immediate past president Jenny McCloskey.

“Dr. Bob Lewis was named a ‘Hometown Hero’ by the city of Mercer Island, and I think that says it all. His considerable dental skills matched the size of his generous heart as he cared for his local community for decades and traveled the world healing the global community as well,” said McCloskey, noting that Bob was a continuous Island Rotary club member since its inception.

When asked in the video interview about his thoughts on admitting women into Rotary following the United States Supreme Court ruling to do so on May 4, 1987, Bob noted:

“I was absolutely for it. I think it saved Rotary and was one of the best things Rotary ever did. Women got to help, then later on they really began to run things,” he said.

Bob is also survived by his grandson, Michael Lewis; daughter-in-law, Lisa Lewis; and stepchildren, Mark Corley and Suzanne Roe. He was predeceased by his wife, Gwen Lewis, and second wife, Anne Corley.

The family asks that remembrances be sent to the Rotary International Foundation or East Shore Unitarian Church.