A Celebration of Life will be held for Stephen William Lewis on Monday, May 31 at Worden Cornerstone Church, 294 East 900 Road, in rural Douglas County. Friends and neighbors are invited to join his family at 11:00 am for a service of remembrance, comfort, and celebration. Steve was a beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, co-worker, neighbor, and friend. He died Friday, May 21, 2021 at his home, of cancer. He was 72. He will be sorely missed.
Steve was born on January 20, 1949, in Oak Park, Illinois. He was the second of 10 children born to Robert O’Dell Lewis and Verla Jeanne Schneider Lewis. Steve grew up in Hinsdale, a suburb of Chicago, in a rambling Victorian house full of love, laughter, and lost socks. Steve attended St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School, Hinsdale Township High School, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education in 1971. He married his high school sweetheart, Lorel June Rezek, on January 20, 1970, at Danforth Chapel on the KU campus. He called Lorel “the best birthday present I ever got.” She called him her “best friend.” “Their song” in high school was Happy Together. And after 51 years, they still were.
Steve taught junior and senior high school English and Language Arts for 7 years in Illinois and Kansas, then owned and operated his own business, Soots Me Chimneysweeping, for 10 years. In 1990 he hired on as a dispatcher for Douglas County and the following year was promoted to the rank of Deputy Sheriff. During his 25-year career with the Sheriff’s Office, he served as a Field Training Officer, firearms instructor, training sergeant, transport sergeant, and was a member of the County Jail Transition team, where he wrote job descriptions, policy, and procedures for the new county jail. He was then assigned to the corrections division. He supervised the kitchen and launched the inmate worker program. He moved to the training division and instituted in-house quarterly training for both the Operations and Corrections divisions. In 2008 he was assigned to special projects and served as the Public Information Officer. He also oversaw the Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy, worked with the Citizen’s Academy Alumni Group, launched the Sheriff’s Facebook page, organized and initiated Project Lifesaver in Douglas County, developed the Drug Take Back program, promoted Smart 911, edited the Kansas Sheriff’s Association magazine, and represented the Sheriff’s Office in many state and local civic organizations. In 2013 he was reclassified to the rank of Lieutenant. When he retired in June of 2014 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
But Steve’s priority and joy was his family. He is survived by his wife, Lorel, and his daughters Molly (Jonathan) Glauner of Lawrence, Kansas, and Elizabeth (John) Rulifson of Shawnee, Kansas. He adored his grandchildren: Emma Rodgers, Lorel Rodgers, Kristina Rasmussen, Jack Rasmussen, Ray Rulifson, and Rose Rulifson. He also lovingly leaves behind his amazing brothers and sisters: Greg Lewis of Lawrence, Kansas; Jim Lewis (Nancy O’Connor) of Lawrence, Kansas; Connie Culbertson (Roy) of Belleville, Illinois; Nancy (Dan) Ward of Weaverville, North Carolina; David (Mona) Lewis of Livingston, Montana; Tim Lewis of Littleton, Colorado; Marsha (Jeff) Sebek of Chicago, Illinois; Andy (Juda) Lewis of Lawrence, Kansas; and Matt (Maggie Carpenter) Lewis of New Paltz, New York, as well as 20 beloved nieces and nephews. Steve loved, guided, and protected us all. As one neighbor wrote of him, “although my guardian angel is no longer with us in the flesh, I know he’ll still be watching over me. However, I will miss his side of the conversation when we talk.” Our sentiments exactly.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations to Family Promise of Lawrence, sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, 601 Indiana St., Lawrence, KS, 66044. Online condolences may be sent at rumsey-yost.com.
We love you, Stephen William Lewis. God be with you ‘til we meet again.