Doug Lewis, who was one of only two living founding members of the Atascadero Historical Society, died Wednesday. He was 81.
Last year, we lost another founder of the society, Marj Mackey. Only Kent Kenney, who was a teen at the time of the formation of the local organization, is left.
I was sorry to learn of Doug’s death. Just two weeks ago, working as a volunteer docent in the Historical Society’s museum, I was reading a passionate piece by Doug over the loss of the Headquarters House, which served as the home of Edward and Mabel Lewis.
The home, built by Jason H. Henry for his daughter, became the Lewis home in 1913.
It was destroyed in a practice burn by the local fire department in 1965 to make way for a market that didn’t get built for 15 years.
Doug challenged the developers who were allowed to burn down the house to “give up at least one parking space” and “build a tribute to Lewis in the way of a plaque, a statue, a few trees and maybe some rocks.” It never happened.
Doug addressed the shame over the home not being saved and the significance of its loss to the “Colony” of Atascadero.
That wasn’t the first disappointment Doug would experience as a longtime resident of the community.
I first got to know Doug when Atascadero voters approved incorporation in 1979. Doug would attend council meetings and offer advice on any number of issues, from housing density to traffic patterns.
Often, his suggestions went ignored. But he continued to go to meetings, and he continued to offer ideas on what he felt would improve the quality of life here.
Doug would often provide provocative letters to the editor when I was editor of the Atascadero News. Many times, he would comment on my opinion pieces, and sometimes, I wrote in response to his letters.
In the latter years, Doug wanted to see higher education become a part of Atascadero. He suggested that the empty rooms of the City Administration Building could provide classrooms for extension classes for Cuesta College, Cal Poly and other private and public educational institutions, such as the University of Phoenix.
Doug would often point out that E.G. Lewis believed in education for the masses, especially women. He thought Atascadero could become the learning center of the Central Coast, just as Paso Robles has the wine industry, our coastal communities have the ocean and San Luis Obispo has its mission.
Doug had a good sense of humor. He laughed easily. And he loved having the same last name as Atascadero’s founder.
In setting up his new Colony on the 23,000-acre Henry ranch, E.G. Lewis restricted residence here to whites. Doug was black. He loved referring to E.G. Lewis as “my uncle Ed.”