Rose Marie Lewis

Lewis—Rose Marie Lewis, 85, on May 28, 2019. Rose was born on January 17, 1934, on a homestead near Ontario, Ore. As a girl, she spent time there and in Coos Bay, Ore., a coastal logging town with a population of Native Americans. Many lifelong habits—thrift, industry, neighborliness, self-sufficiency—emerged directly out of this small-town pioneer living. She attended University of California, Berkeley, where she met and was influenced by the mystic theologian Howard Thurman, the cofounder of the interracial, interdenominational Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, in San Francisco, Calif. She upheld this vision of racial cooperation and harmony her whole life. She traveled in Europe, hitchhiking and visiting different communities, looking, as she used to say, “for Shangri-La, the place where people had it all figured out.”

In 1966, under the care of Berkeley (Calif.) Meeting, she married Richard Lewis, whose Quaker ancestors had settled in Pennsylvania in William Penn’s time. Raised in Pasadena, Calif., he was studying for a doctorate in Far Eastern studies focusing on Japan. They directed the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) East Asia workcamp program in Japan and Korea, and later bought a small farm near Brooks, Ore., to practice permaculture. In 1982, during the U.S.-supported genocide of Guatemalan native communities, they went to Guatemala and adopted two orphan girls, Ana del Carmen and Marta Beatriz. “That was when I really started to learn about racism,” Rose said later, “from my daughters.” Also in 1982 she asked Salem (Ore.) Meeting to sponsor a peace vigil (that continues today).

She and Dick started a local branch of Alternatives to Violence Project and led workshops in the prisons and in the community. In 1992 she founded an annual Human Rights Day event called Salem Speaks Up! where community members could speak about discrimination experienced or witnessed in the past year. She also started a Quaker worship group in Oregon State Penitentiary; cofounded Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality to advocate for Latino youth; served on the Peace Plaza board, the Peace Lecture committee, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) national board; helped create and sustain the Salem FOR Fourth Sunday at 4 p.m. potlucks; and was active with the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and AFSC.

After the girls were grown, she and Dick taught in China for two years and traveled extensively through Africa and South America: visiting a peace community in Colombia; serving as delegates at an international reconciliation conference in Rwanda; renewing friendships; and making new ones.

When an African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in Salem was burned down, she and other local people found a place for church members to meet while it found funds for a new building. Fearless, kind, persistent, and indefatigable in her advocacy, she invited people to her home, acted as a mentor, and kept in contact with social justice advocates nationally and internationally. She was a devoted mother and a thoughtful neighbor, hosting annual potlucks and holiday parties in her home. Children and adults remember her punch, her Easter bunny cake, and Christmas sing-alongs with Dick at the piano. She edited EastWest Journal for 30 years; wrote a 150-page biography manuscript of Floyd Schmoe, the founder of Houses for Hiroshima; and shared her humor and love of fun by writing and singing songs with the Awesome Aunties. She spent her life trying to make sure that all of us have a place at the table.

Rose is survived by her children, Ana Lewis and Marta Weiss; and one grandchild.

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