Dave Lewers, fair board member and livestock auction ring man in Sonoma County, dies at 65

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At the Sonoma County Fair year after year, Dave Lewers was the guy hopping about, hollering, doing whatever it took to incite patrons of the junior livestock auction to bid higher for kids’ painstakingly raised hogs, lambs and steers.

Lewers racked up miles on his pickup over the two decades he drove regularly to the county fairgrounds in Santa Rosa from the splendid, remote ranch he managed off of Kelly Road. He and his wife, Bunny, owned the private former logging road between northern Sonoma County and the coastal hills near Annapolis.

Lewers, a no-nonsense, adamantly independent sort and a champion of both the county fair and the Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair, died Feb. 6 after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was 65.

Born in Oregon and reared in Healdsburg, Lewers was an outdoorsman with strong hands and convictions to match. He came down hard on gun control, costly land-use fees and other government regulations he regarded as needlessly intrusive.

“Common sense should override everything,” he once told an interviewer. “Now when I see something I don’t believe in, I go to the City Council meetings and talk. For example, if the law says your fence can only be 4 feet high, how do you keep your kids from climbing over it? How do you keep your dog in? I keep my eyes open and pay attention.

“The difference between me and most people,” he added, “is that I’m willing to die for what I believe in. I’m willing to stand up and be counted.”

Long self-employed, Lewers co-owned Redwood Auto Body in Healdsburg until he sold it to his partner. He then founded and operated until 2005 Dave Lewers Auto Glass.

Lewers was 5 months old when his parents, Jerry and Katy Lewers, left Oregon and settled in Healdsburg in 1954.

Jerry Lewers became a logger in the forests of northwestern Sonoma County. He helped timber magnate Paul Kelly and his wife, Lucile Kelly, build the marvel of engineering and tenacity that was Kelly Road.

Snaking from near Cloverdale westward about 25 miles into the coastal woodlands and on to near Annapolis, the private road ushered in a period of intense and lucrative logging.

In addition to working on the Kellys’ road, Jerry Lewers also managed Flatridge Ranch, which the Kellys previously owned. He did that for 25 years, and then passed on management of the ranch to his son.

Dave Lewers once recalled, “My dad told me to be a goat, not a sheep, and make my own trail.” He took the challenge to heart.

After he graduated from Healdsburg High School in 1972 and studied for two years at Santa Rosa Junior College, he tried his hand as a logger.

“He didn’t like that,” said daughter Sarah Lewers of Santa Rosa.

Dave Lewers then opened an auto body shop in Healdsburg with partner Dennis Parrish. When he wasn’t working, he was most likely hunting.

He and fellow Healdsburg High graduate Bunny Ponzo, whom he first had gone out on a blind date with in 1972, married in 1977 at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Healdsburg.

Dave Lewers once said, “Our friends took bets we wouldn’t last six months.” They would be married for 41 years.

“They had such a love, it was just phenomenal,” his daughter said.

Dave Lewers became a leader on the Sonoma County Fair and Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair boards. Throughout his tenure, he was a tireless advocate for children in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, and of the auctions in which they sold the livestock they’d raised.

Lewers knew a fair bit about livestock. Sarah Lewers said he learned as a teenager to shear sheep, and all his life he’d travel from ranch to ranch to help friends with shearing.

“He was so good with the sheep,” his daughter said. “He could keep a little lamb alive that no one thought could be kept alive.”

She said her father seemed as strong and vital as ever when he felt out of sorts at the end of January. Thinking he might have been coming down with the flu, he went to see his doctor.

Tests found he had lung cancer that had spread to his liver. He’d just begun chemotherapy when he died at his Kelly Road ranch home the morning of Feb. 6.

“He was at home on his favorite couch,” Sarah Lewers said.

In addition to his daughter and his wife in Healdsburg, Dave Lewers is survived by daughter Suzie Lewers of Santa Rosa; his mother, Katy Lewers, of Healdsburg; his brother, Jimmy Lewers, of Cloverdale; and a granddaughter.

A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 26 at Trione Winery in Geyserville. The family suggests memorial donations be made to the Boys & Girls Club of Healdsburg, 555 Piper St., Healdsburg 95448.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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