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John F Lewis


1934 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
John F Lewis Obituary
John Frank Lewis, of Carlsbad, NM, passed from this world headed to greener pastures on December 24th, 2016. John was born in Stanton, TX, on July 17, 1934, to John B and Noma Lewis.

In later years, he lived in El Paso, TX, Lake Valley, Hatch, Silver City, Lordsburg, Gallup, Cloudcroft, NM, and Pecos, TX before settling in Carlsbad with his wife, Lynne.

John started life and ended it as a cowboy, but he made quite a ride of life in other endeavors in the period in between. He lived through a time of great transition in America. He spent his earliest years on his family's ranch near Stanton. He remembered having to trade eggs at the store for goods, and not even knowing what money was when someone tried to give him a nickel for candy. Some hard times led to the family selling their ranch in Stanton and moving to El Paso and New Mexico.

He remembered following the cavalry of Ft. Bliss into the desert to watch them train with horses, wagons and cannon. His family moved around New Mexico to a number of places, ranching and working on ranches. He attended schools in El Paso, Hillsboro, Hatch, and Silver City. While he lived at Lake Valley, he would ride a horse to Nutt, then take a train to Silver City, where he would go to school for a month or so, then come back for a short visit.

During WWII, everyone was shorthanded and young ones had to pitch in and do a man's work. When he was a day shy of his 11th birthday, he was out early in the summer morning gathering horses for the day's work when the whole sky lit up, and there was a boom louder than any sonic boom he heard in later years. It was the first atomic bomb.

He went to school at a couple of different one room schoolhouses. In one it was his job to get a bucket of water filled from the well. The children would dip water from the bucket for drinking. Some donkeys had been hanging around the schoolhouse and he thought it would be funny to put a ball of donkey litter in the bucket. After one of the girls found the evidence and shrieked, he told the teacher that it must have been in the well when he brought up the bucket. The teacher said that might be true, and so he had to spend the next two days cleaning out the well. John always thought the teacher's revenge was the funniest part of that story. He went to high school and graduated in Lordsburg.

During the summers he continued to work on ranches, and one summer he and another kid were up in the Gila, where they stayed and watched over cattle all summer. One evening there was a lightning storm, and the next morning they saw a large tree on fire. The boys worked for three days to keep that fire controlled, and when the forest service finally arrived and saw what they had done, they were so impressed that the boys got a check for their efforts, which was more than they made the entire summer keeping tabs on cows. By the next summer, and the one following, John had a job with the forest service.
He worked there helping to pack mules around the Gila in rough country, going from one fire camp to another in two of the hottest, driest years on record, and had great adventures fighting fires. After high school he continued working for the forest service before joining the army. He trained as an MP and nuclear security specialist, and served in Korea with the 24th Infantry Division. He had to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan as part of his deployment, and it made a big impression on him. He was a sergeant when his enlistment ended in Ft. Lewis, WA, and he returned to the Silver City area and began working again for the forest service.

In 1957 he became a Grant County Sheriff's Deputy. He joined the New Mexico State Police in 1958, and served the state until 1964. Among other places, he worked in Gallup area, and also in Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, and some other locations working undercover. His ranching background served him well in the rural areas of New Mexico. Observational skills and logic developed on the cattle range and the forest proved useful in law enforcement and he put away a lot of bad guys. The state police ranks were thin, and his Cloudcroft territory stretched from Alamogordo to Hope, and Ruidoso to the Texas border. Highway 82 had more than its share of criminals transiting, and there were some tough folks in those mountains, used to settling difficulties themselves. In a time without good radios, nearby ambulance and EMT support, or Lifeflight helicopters, he was often the only difference between life and death for people with injuries. John earned his pay.

He was first married to Marylou Connolly, and though the marriage was short lived, he came out of it with a beautiful little girl, Kim. After he had been stationed in Cloudcroft for a few years, he met Lynne Walkup. No couple was ever more in love, and they married in December of 1963. Lynne came with some bonus children-two sons, Scott and Tony, and another beautiful little girl, Tamara. They set up residence in Cloudcroft in a home they called Cloud 9, and soon were joined by Kim. The home was aptly named. The four children became six in short order, with the birth of two more adored daughters, Tia and Deon. John was a great father and a good friend to all six of his kids.

Not wanting to leave Cloudcroft to go to his next transfer, he left the NMSP, and John and Lynne started and ran several successful businesses in Cloudcroft, including a service station, a wrecker service, a wood lot and a security agency. They were active in the community, serving on the Village Council and the Chamber of Commerce. He made an unsuccessful run for Sheriff of Otero County in 1966. They worked hard, and the businesses prospered, but John missed being in law enforcement. He took a job as a Reeves County Deputy Sheriff in 1969, and they left their beloved mountains and friends in Cloudcroft and moved to Pecos, TX.

John served Reeves County for several years as a deputy before moving on to become the County Juvenile Officer. As a deputy Sheriff, he had a solid reputation as an investigator, solved a wide variety of crimes, and was a good man to have around when things went south. It wasn't unusual to have him called away to other counties for special investigations, unraveling crime scenes and tracking criminals or helping search for lost hunters and hikers. His fluency in Spanish was useful in investigations and coordination with agencies on both sides of the border. As a Juvenile officer, he was phenomenal in helping troubled and troublesome youths regain a straight path. In later years, they would sometimes stop in to see him, and thank him for steering them to better ways. Having spent much of his own youth on his own, he had a knack for understanding what motivated kids to do right or wrong.

In 1981, John and Lynne left Pecos and moved to Carlsbad, NM, so that John could become an Eddy County Deputy Sheriff. He was Chief Deputy under Sheriff Jack Childress from 1981 to 1985. One mark of their success is the solved murder rate. A county official remarked that when they took office they had a backlog of nearly 30 murders, and had all but two of them solved in 18 months. John was elected Sheriff himself in 1985, and served in that capacity until 1989, when he again became chief deputy from 1990 to 1997.

Although they had a big family, John and Lynne worked hard, John was a canny trader and they got by. A cowboy at heart whatever he did for a living, he always managed to have horses and other livestock, and all his children grew up riding, loving the outdoors, and enjoying the western life.

After a final run for Eddy County Sheriff in 1997 did not pan out, John worked a short while as a security officer in the federal building.

The cowboy life called, and soon he left to partner with his son Tony on a ranch in the Guadalupe Mountains, where he enjoyed raising Longhorn cattle as well as farming on his and Lynne's small farm in Carlsbad until health and vision issues forced him to stop. He lost Lynne in 2008 to cancer, and missed her terribly. But through all of the heartache of that loss, and health problems which would shake any man, he retained his hardiness, his sense of humor, his willingness to help others, and his love of family and friends. He always told his kids and grandkids, in bad times and good, keep looking forward, no sense in looking back (unless to tell a good story). To the end, there was always another adventure over the horizon.

John is survived by his sons, Scott Lewis of Orlando, FL, and Tony Lewis (Jeanette) of El Paso, daughters Tamara Robertson (Kelby) of Wink, TX, Kimberley Kay Lewis, Tia Mills (Stacy) of Carlsbad, Deon Kempfer (Jimmy) of Deer Park, FL, sister Perry Elizabeth Head of Franklin, TN and her children Leonard Peck of Huntsville, TX, Vincent Peck, Nancy Peck, and Carolyn Allen of Franklin, TN, as well as 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

A Celebration of John's life is scheduled for Jan 20th, indoors at the Eddy County Sheriff's Posse Arena at 10:30 AM, with Pastor Jimmy Tarvin officiating. The family would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the many people of Carlsbad Medical Center, Golden Services, Lakeview Christian Home and Lakeview Hospice Services for the professional care, enduring compassion, and love and friendship which you extended to John during his illness. He is with the angels now, but there were many around him before he ever passed.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Cowboys for Cancer. Condolences may be expressed at dentonwood.com
Published in Alamogordo Daily News from Jan. 18 to Feb. 17, 2017
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