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Kenneth Emerson Lewis

1926 - 2013 Obituary Condolences
Kenneth Emerson Lewis Obituary
Kenneth Emerson Lewis

Kenneth Emerson Lewis passed away in Sunnyside, Washington, on Tuesday, October 29th following a brief illness.

Ken was born October 9, 1926 in Yakima, Washington to Donald McKenzie Lewis and Sophe Erma (Warner) Lewis, five years after the birth of his only sibling, Donald Warner Lewis. Although Yakima set the stage for his birth, soon after, his family made their home in Southern California, and later, Western Washington. Ken's idyllic childhood reached its zenith in Beaux Arts, where his family joined his paternal grandparents who lived on the shores of Lake Washington in a rural setting largely unrecognizable today as metropolitan Bellevue, WA. While his days were filled with the outdoor charms of this environment, his evenings were spent in the company of family he adored, including his grandfather, George J. Lewis. George, a former Idaho Secretary of State and Boise newspaper man, told colorful stories of his family's development of the Star of Hope silver mine in Idaho's Copper Basin, along with myriad other "Gold Rush" and "Old West" adventures originating in nearby Ketchum. Ken's life was further enhanced by frequent visits to Naches, WA where his dad's brothers -- Jack, Ike, and Crawford -- farmed with their families. There, as he listened to his elders' laughter and reminiscing, Ken developed a love of farming which would resurface later in life, and absorbed a rich trove of family history, while making some of his own. These stories, and his incredibly entertaining ability to communicate them, became a hallmark of his life to everyone who knew him.

Upon his graduation from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1944, Ken entered the University of Washington, where he joined the V-12 Navy College Training Program. Ken's passions were history, geography, and geology, but at his parents' urging, he graduated with a "practical" degree in Civil Engineering instead. With World War II drawing to a close, Ken opted out of further officer's training, but remained in the Navy where he stayed stateside, fighting the "battle of Seattle". Shortly after honorable discharge from the Navy, Ken joined the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, where he surveyed the Alaskan outback, often from the perspective of a plane cockpit alongside colorful bush pilots, whose stories he retold for years to come. The Alaskan adventure would be short lived, however, as the Korean conflict brought Ken a draft notice to serve in the U.S. Army. Once again, he remained stateside, this time at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

Completing his service with the Army, Ken returned to the state of Washington and joined his parents, now in Yakima, where the family owned a corner grocery store in the early 1950's. But some of his greatest experiences during this time came from several months spent in Idaho, where he retraced the family mining stories he heard as a child. Indeed, he and brother Don would inherit the Star of Hope silver mining property from his father's family, and, ironically, a gold mine - the Morrison George Washington, in Idaho's Yankee Fork area - from his mother's family; those properties - rich with family history, if no longer rich with precious metals - became Ken's earthly paradise.

Ken also worked for Yakima Cement Products for a time, and then relocated to Southern California where he found employment with the City of Monrovia as a civil engineer. Nevertheless, the northwest beckoned, and he returned to the Yakima Valley to help his parents establish an asparagus farm outside of Prosser, WA. With that effort completed, Ken resumed his engineering career, now employed by the City of Seattle. Presently, his brother Don held an executive position with Bell Telephone, and he urged Ken to call a "honey blond" - Betty Estep - who worked as an executive secretary in the phone company's Seattle office. Five years after Ken placed the call to Betty, the couple married in 1961. Their daughter, Nancy Elizabeth, was born in 1962.

Ken then joined the Army Corps of Engineers, and he and Betty relocated to Walla Walla, WA, where their son, Kenneth Cameron, was born in 1965. But the joy of a new baby was interrupted, when, one week later, daughter Nancy lost a 17 month battle with Leukemia.

In 1969, Ken resigned from his engineering position to realize a dream, and devote the remainder of his work life to farming. With wife and son in tow, Ken returned to his parents' asparagus farm in Prosser. There, he joined his recently widowed mother, and also his brother Don, who, indulging this shared passion, had acquired a neighboring farm for himself several years earlier. The passage of time brought additional land, numerous other crops, and a new business name to Ken's operation - Trail View Farm - which reflected a view of highway 221 visible in the hills to the south of Prosser. That highway bore special significance to Ken, as it was once the rutted wagon trail traversed by his father's family as they migrated from Idaho into Washington. Meanwhile, Ken became known as a successful and innovative grower of numerous varieties of apples, juice grapes, and wine grapes. He was a member of Welch's National Grape Cooperative, and his wine grape vineyards won wide acclaim under the "Lewis Vineyard" designation.

Aside from farming and caring for his family, Ken helped establish Prosser Fruit Service, and Kenyon Zero Storage. He also participated in numerous agricultural industry and community organizations, serving on the Mid-Columbia Library Board, Prosser School Board, and Washington State Grape Society Board. Ken was a member of the Walla Walla Elks lodge, and of the American Society of Civil Engineers. But a favorite role was serving his community as an accomplished Great Highland bagpiper. Toward that end, he was an early member of the Desert Thistle Pipes and Drums band of the Tri-Cities, WA area, and frequently offered his services as an unpaid individual piper for special community, personal and charitable events.

Ken's integrity and devotion to family and country were unswerving. Raised in the Congregational Church, and a longtime member of Self-Realization Fellowship, he devoted a period of time each evening to prayer and meditation, unless a health situation rendered him unable to carry through with it. His personal and business dealings quietly reflected his belief that all souls are on a sacred journey of rediscovering their divine nature. We, his family, will miss him, but we are so thankful to have had him in our lives.

Survivors include his wife Betty, son Ken, nephews Don W. Lewis Jr. (Kathy), Bill (Susie), Duncan (Rebecca), niece Kathy, and extended family and many treasured friends - all of whom have given him support in these declining years. He was preceded in death by his parents Don M. and Erma, his daughter Nancy Elizabeth, his brother Don W. and sister-in-law Nancy Lewis. He will be interred beside his parents and daughter at Terrace Heights Memorial Park in Yakima at a private family gathering.

A celebration of Ken's life will be held at a later date.

We would like to give special thanks for the wonderful care Ken received at Prosser Memorial Hospital and Prestige Care & Rehabilitation in Sunnyside during his closing days.

In Ken's memory, donations may be made to Children's Hospital in Seattle, or a . Prosser Funeral Home & Crematory is handling the arrangements.
Published in The Seattle Times on Nov. 27, 2013
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