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Community Comes Together in a Life Celebration of Former Employee

Gila River Governor Stephen Roe Lewis, who is also a nephew, gave closing remarks and memories of his uncle growing up.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community celebrated the life of a former longtime employee, Robert Roe “Bob” Lewis, on Thursday, September 21 in the Council Chambers of the Two Waters Complex. Lewis passed away on August 28. Many Community members and former coworkers came together to celebrate Lewis, who worked for close to 40 years with the Community.

Lewis was the executive director of SRPMIC Health and Human Services from 1966 to 1996 and director of the Social Services department from 1996 to 2005. His dedication and commitment to the SRPMIC were highlighted throughout the event.

Council member David Antone was the moderator, and SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier gave an opening prayer.

SRPMIC President Delbert W. Ray, Sr. spoke at the memorial service, along with former Community presidents Paul Smith, Sr. and Ivan Makil.

Ray said, “I really appreciate Mr. Lewis personally. He helped me on a path, and I remember when I became judge he was there to congratulate me, and today I am here as president.”

Ray continued talking about the friendship he has enjoyed with Lewis and his family. Lewis’s father married President Ray and his wife June more than 40 years ago. “I know many family and youth that [Lewis] has helped throughout the years,” said Ray.

Former SRPMIC President Paul Smith, Sr. also shared some memories. “When people see me and relate me with Bob, it was mainly because of basketball, and that was because he was my teammate,” said Smith.

Smith worked with Lewis for many years, including when he served as SRPMIC president and Lewis was a social worker. Smith talked about all the projects they both worked on in the Community throughout the years. He also recalled how Lewis was a runner, and one day he helped police chase down a person of interest in a crime. “He was always willing to help in any way he could,” said Smith.

“He laid the foundation to many things that took place in this Community,” Smith added. “And we need to remember that. People that work for us do a lot more than their job, and he was proof of that.”

Former SRPMIC President Paul Smith, Sr. shared memories of Robert "Bob" Lewis during his Life Celebration which was held at the Two Waters Council Chambers.
Musical selections were presented by Salt River Translated Choir and choirs from A New Beginning Church and the Salt River Presbyterian Church.

Former SRPMIC President Ivan Makil talked about Lewis’ work ethic: “His contributions were a big part of the history and foundation of the growth of the Community today,” said Makil. “His work also affected people in many different ways. Our elders will tell us that people will often come into our lives and do this, and he was one of them.”

Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis, a nephew of the late Bob Lewis, gave the closing remarks and shared some memories of his uncle from when he was growing up.

“For my uncle Bob, he stressed education, he cared about his faith, and he cared about his profession, which was social work,” Governor Lewis said. “I remember as [GRIC] governor one time I went to speak at a social workers’ conference in Fort McDowell, and I talked about my uncle serving in the Community for a number of years. Afterwards, [social workers] from all over Indian Country came up to me and shared the impact he had on them in becoming social workers or getting their education.”

Governor Lewis said that this was a testament to Bob Lewis’ legacy, not only what he has done to inspire, but whom he inspired. And not only within his family or his professional life here, but all across Indian Country.

“He gave his professional career of 40 years to the SRPMIC, and you were his second family. And we thank you for the outpouring of love and support that our family has received from you. I would like to thank each and every one of you on behalf of the family,” Governor Lewis concluded.

Following the program, a meal was served in the Round House Café.