Life Story / Obituary
Carolyn Johnson Lewis, 66, died peacefully at home on March 24th from dementia related complications. Born in Traverse City on January 30, 1953, she was the second child of Mary and Walter Johnson. She was graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 1971 and set out, as she said, “to see the world.” Those travels took her to Minnesota and then to Long Island, New York where she continued her education at Suffolk County Community College. Having moved to Brooklyn, New York, she finished her undergraduate degree in creative writing in the Gallatin Division of New York University in 1984. She married Stephen Lewis in 1986 and finished her law degree from the Touro Law Center on Long Island in 1988 while nine months pregnant with their daughter Danielle.
She was a legal editor for West Publishing, but after Danielle was born, she worked from home as a freelance editor for both legal and creative writing. During this time, she provided her father materials describing the purchase of development rights from farmers program that had been instituted in Suffolk County where she then lived. Her father used those materials to help establish a similar program now in place in Peninsula Township.
In January 2002, after her husband had retired, and in response to her desire to return to her roots, the family moved to Old Mission near her parents, siblings, and their families. Moving back to Old Mission responded to one of her passions, her love for that place, and its history. Her attraction to Old Mission extended to its history, particularly that of its original Native American inhabitants as well as the settlers, including her own family, who followed. Introduced by her father to the OMP Historical Society, she wrote for its newsletter, expanded the Log Cabin Day festivities at the Hessler Log House in Lighthouse Park at the tip of the Peninsula to include additional craft presenters, pushed to have the lighthouse open to visitors that day, and advocated for the restoration of the Dougherty Mission House, a project dear to her father’s heart.
She loved the landscape of the Peninsula, picking up interesting objects on her walks, such as odd-shaped stones or occasionally an ancient farm implement such as the oxen yoke now sitting on a shelf in her living room. She was also an avid gardener, hiring a landscape designer to beautify her property and then maintaining the planting beds. She fed the birds and kept an eye out for the occasional deer roaming the property or hawk in the sky.
Always stubbornly independent, if not willful, she overcame any obstacles. Afraid of heights, she built up her nerve so she could fly. Gentle and accommodating on the outside, her inner self was steel as anybody who crossed her or her family soon discovered. Of a curious mind, she dreamed of visiting China even while her heart remained always in Old Mission where she grew up as a farmgirl , owning her own horse, and helping on the farm by becoming the first woman cherry shaker driver on the Peninsula.
Because she was an intensely visual person, she was a serious photographer and collector of prints for her walls. Her chief passion, however, was the printed word. She told how when she was young, and having been sent out by her father on some farm chore, she would be found underneath a tree reading a book. She grew up to be a gifted writer herself, incorporating that visual imagination, and winning awards for her short stories, planning a novel based on the French fur traders, and doing immense research on Sarah Lane, the first woman keeper of Mission Point Light, projects which her early onset disease prevented her from completing.
In recognition of her writing life, a reading of her works is being planned for later this spring.
She is survived by her husband Stephen, daughter Danielle Lewis of Minnesota, stepdaughters, Kerri Levy and Tracy Abramson of New York, mother Mary Johnson, brothers Dean and Ward Johnson, and sister Jane Boursaw of Traverse City.
They, and others whose paths crossed her, will cherish her memory.
Please visit www.lifestorytc.com to sign the guestbook and share your thoughts and memories with the family.