It was a poignant, somber time for first responders and residents as they paid their respects to Major Toby Lewis as his funeral procession made its way through Conifer to Evergreen Memorial Park.
The procession on Sept. 14 was the first of three days of events to honor Lewis, who was born and raised in Conifer. He was one of three Marines killed on Aug. 27 when their aircraft crashed during a training mission on Melville Island north of Darwin, Australia.
Firefighters, first responders, military veterans, friends and strangers lined U.S. 285, Barkley Road, Highway 73 and North Turkey Creek Road, many holding flags, to honor Lewis. Area fire-department and law-enforcement vehicles lined the route with their lights flashing.
Many people said they were honoring someone who sacrificed his life to keep our country safe.
“Toby died protecting his country, family and fellow Marines,” said Mike Harvey of Evergreen. “We can take a couple hours to show respect for him and his family.”
Those who knew him said he was dedicated to his family, God and his country, and he was a proud Marine.
“We want to show his family that his sacrifice mattered, and the community cares,” said Brett Vamashita of Conifer.
Marcia Loomis held an American flag as she stood at HiIghway 73 and Gray Fox Drive with several others, saying it was important to support the country’s servicemen and servicewomen. She didn’t know Lewis, “but I’m here to support him any way I can.”
Friends Kiva Reinstein, and Hailey and Anna Davidson stood with their moms, explaining that they were honoring Lewis because he served and protected our country.
Debbie Stewart with Aspen Ridge Church next to Evergreen Memorial Park scoured area stores this week for small flags that she handed out to attendees and placed along the road.
“A lot of people know his family,” she said. “Toby is a hero. It’s an honor to be here and hold a flag for him.”
Toby leaves behind his wife, Meredith, and their three girls, Lydia, 6, Nora, 4, and Eliana, 2. They’re currently based in Kaneohe Bay at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Toby’s parents, Norm and Kathy Lewis, along with grandfather Ron Lewis, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins still live in the foothills.
Toby, who attended Marshdale Elementary, West Jefferson Middle School, Conifer High School and Liberty University where he played soccer, was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 2008. He was the executive officer of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, and he logged more than 1,800 military flight hours, including more than 1,500 in the Osprey. His personal awards include Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with gold star and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
“He was a man of faith and a man of valor,” Aunt Amy Lewis said. “In one interview, Toby’s dad, Norm, said Toby ‘bled integrity.’ The family is really feeling the loss. It’s a huge loss to the family and to the country. He will be deeply missed in the area as well.”
Marty Lake, chaplain for Evergreen Fire/Rescue, said he’s known the Lewis family and called Lewis an energetic, rambunctious child who loved life.
“He always wanted to be a pilot like his maternal grandfather,” Lake said. “He was very much a man of integrity.”