Smiles we remember

Drucilla Lewis
October 31st, 2019

Drucilla Lewis

After news of Drucilla “Dru” Lewis’ passing started to sink in, former colleagues’ funny anecdotes and cherished memories soon followed.

Lewis joined the college as a staff member in 1994, making scores of friends over the years before retiring as a clinic manager for the orthodontics department in late 2017. She passed away Saturday, Oct. 12, after a prolonged illness.

Karen McCarter, who worked by Lewis’ side for many years, found it difficult to pick one favorite memory. There were just too many, like the time she told Lewis about her boyfriend’s longtime wish for a denim quilt. Lewis took his blue-jean scraps home and sewed them together, then recruited a friend to quilt it. She also helped McCarter with her daughter’s wedding.

“She just loved doing for people. That’s how she showed love,” says McCarter, a patient assistant. “Actions speak louder than words sometimes.”

Dr. Phillip Campbell, retired department head of orthodontics, remembers how Lewis suggested Pepe’s and Mito’s every time he treated his crew to lunch and asked for input.

That’s the first thing he thought of when he promised Lewis’ daughter he’d do something in honor of this beloved colleague. The perfect idea came to him quickly. On his dime, he sent McCarter, Dr. Larry Tadlock, Dr. Peter Buschang, and a handful of orthodontic staff members over to Lewis’ preferred lunch locale.

“Dru would always order tortilla soup and chile con queso. I told them to buy her a bowl and set it on the table because she’s really with us in spirit,” says Campbell, who regrettably had another commitment and couldn’t make the lunch. “I like to remember people on their best day; the good times instead of the sad times.”

Drucilla Lewis and Julie Bradshaw

Dru Lewis (left) and Julie Bradshaw at a resident’s wedding.

Julie Bradshaw, also part of Lewis’ orthodontics “family” and her best friend, remembers the joy, warmth and camaraderie Lewis brought to work every day.

“She was one of those people you could depend on no matter what. She was like that with everybody. Once you met Dru, you loved her,” she says. “She went all out for everybody.”

Yearly excursions to the Texas State Fair to split a corny dog, and the huge spread of food Lewis brought in as her Christmas gift to the whole department, are some of Bradshaw’s most vivid memories. Lewis had a knack for cooking amazing comfort food, she says. On birthdays, Lewis always baked a cake – or cakes – if she couldn’t decide whether strawberry or chocolate would do.

“She was a jack of all trades,” says Bradshaw, who worked beside Lewis while an administrative assistant in the orthodontics department. “She could do just about anything.”

That included not only baking but raising Charolais cattle, spoiling her family and her adopted ortho family, and quilting. When Bradshaw retired, Lewis presented her with a handmade quilt that included all 14 of her grandchildren’s handprints.

“She was a very crafty person. It was just so special to me. It’s unique; no one has one like it,” she says.

Lewis not only endeared herself to co-workers but also to the orthodontic residents, says Dr. Richard Ceen, retired professor, department head and program director of graduate orthodontics.

“She loved them and they loved her in return. In many ways, she was the surrogate mother they could confide in as they faced the challenges of negotiating the residency program,” he recalled in her eulogy.

Lewis was known for the famous desk drawer she had filled with candy. For times when anyone needed a pick-me-up, they knew just where to look.

“She also was not immune to playing pranks,” Ceen recalled. “I remember well one birthday when I arrived at my office and found the room was filled with balloons and sparkle confetti. It took months to clean the confetti out of the rug. As I recall, she never admitted to doing the deed.”

Lewis is survived by daughter Charla, son Charlie and five grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Charles.

— Kathleen Green Pothier