Friends and family are remembering this weekend the life of Conway educator and elementary namesake Carolyn Lewis, who died Friday at home.
Vivian Hogue, who knew Lewis for 65 years, said the two were like sisters.
Meeting when they were young, Hogue said they grew up together and stayed close throughout the years.
“She was not just a good friend,” she said. “She was my encourager when I went back to school. She was my go-to confidant.”
As kids, Hogue said they both had reputations of being the giggly girls in church who laughed and talked at times one shouldn’t, but people got to where they expected the two to be silly.
She said Lewis was loyal, generous and caring for all, especially children.
“It did not matter their circumstance, she loved every one of them,” Hogue said.
A million stories and years later, such as youth church camp memories and working on the Conway High School Wampus Cats Newspaper together as editor and columnist, she said they were always attached at the hip.
“Just about everything we did, we did together,” Hogue said.
From Lewis being the matron of honor at Hogue’s second wedding to spending weekends watching their sons play baseball at the ballpark, she said she knew they’d always be friends … “like it was always meant to be.”
“I just knew it would always be that way,” Hogue said. “Having her as a best friend was kind of built into us.”
Throughout the years, she said, the two never had a harsh word for each other and never got into arguments.
“I can say that honestly,” Hogue said. “I think most people would say she was easy to get along with.”
She said they talked frequently up to the day she passed and now that wont happen anymore.
“It’s just going to be a tremendous gap,” Hogue said.
Despite losing her lifelong friend, she is thankful she will “see her one day” and be reunited with her best friend in Heaven.
Lewis, a Conway native, graduated from CHS in 1961 and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s in early childhood education from the University of Central Arkansas.
She taught in multiple school districts, including several schools in Conway, and was in the education field for 32 years, teaching kindergarten, first, third, fifth and sixth grade.
After retiring, Lewis was elected to the Conway Board of Education, where she served from 2000-10 as secretary, vice president and president.
Terry Fiddler served along side her and recalled on Friday Lewis's service, her wit and her special friendship.
"God put very few angels on this earth who walked around," he told the Log Cabin. "And she was one of them.
"We both had a love for Elvis, and I told her the other day that I didn't realizing he was singing about her when he sang,'I can't help falling in love with you.'"
And when things were tough on the school board, Lewis had the best sense of humor, he said.
"I called her 'girlfriend' and she called me 'Luke', like Skywalker," he chuckled. "It was our code when something was fixing to get bad. It was her way of telling me to 'use the Force.' She got me this little Luke Skywalker doll that always sat in front of me at school board meetings."
She was a member of several boards and received the Pinnacle Award in 2008 from the Arkansas School Boards Association for attaining 200 hours of continuing education. She was also inducted into the Conway Public School Foundation in 2016, which recognizes former students, faculty, administrators and community leaders who left marks on the Conway School District. She was the first woman to achieve that honor.
Carolyn Lewis Elementary School was named after the beloved local educator, and in 2014 a fundraiser was held in her honor in which $1,300 was raised for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Lewis was battling cancer and going through chemotherapy at the time, so her son Mark — whose son Adam battled with leukemia, but is now in remission— attended in her honor.
“There are no words that can express what this means to our family to have gone through what we did,” Mark told the Log Cabin Democrat at the time.
He said he was impressed and amazed by the amount that was raised, “a true testament” to the caring heart of the school and Carolyn.
“She’s always been a giver and always will be,” Mark said.
Carolyn Lewis Elementary Principal Tina Antley said Lewis was a special person in multiple ways.
“She was my first principal when I came to work for Conway Public Schools,” she said. “I have modeled much of my leadership style after what I learned from her — speaking softly to emphasize a point or get students’s attention, being kind and patient, give hugs and smiles.”
Antley said Lewis was always generous with both her time and resources like sending money to the school to help pay for students’s meals.
She said when the school opened, one of the first things administrators did was list attributes of Lewis’s that made her the type of person a school would be named for.
“Our goal as a school has been to exemplify those character traits and to create a school that is just like Carolyn — fun-loving, family-oriented, encouraging and steadfast … just to name a few,” Antley said. “We will strive to honor her memory by continuing to be a school she would be proud of.”
Superintendent Greg Murry said Lewis served the children of Conway in a significant way and in her different roles, always exemplified a caring and kind outlook toward all individuals.
“Her deep understanding of our community and the many, many friends she had in Conway made her our district’s best ambassador,” he said. “I will miss her greatly, and in particular, will miss her words of encouragement. She was truly an angel.”
Lewis was married to Gary Joe Lewis for 52 years. They had one son, Mark, daughter-in-law Dayna and three grandchildren, Adam, KaraLyse and KatyBeth.
A memorial service celebrating Lewis’s life will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday at First United Methodist Church in Conway where Lewis was a member. A reception will follow.