Friends and family of David Edwin Lewis continue to mourn the man they called "the most loving man on the mountain" while they await word on suspicious fires that destroyed his house and one other on Dead Indian Memorial Road Thursday.
Authorities say it will take days to confirm the identity of the badly burned body found at Lewis' hilltop cabin and collect evidence from home's scorched rubble.
Lewis, 46, had lived at the cabin at 12801 Dead Indian Memorial Road for 23 years and was known for his care for the land and his neighbors, said his ex-wife Josee Fournier, who is the mother of his three sons.
He was the neighbor who would deliver firewood, plow snow from driveways or haul in groceries for anyone who needed help in the winter, said his son, Casey Lewis, 19.
"He did it for everyone he knew," agreed his girlfriend, Mimi Warnecke.
Warnecke lives on the same mountain road, several miles from the cabin Lewis rented. The first half-dozen years she lived there, she knew him only as "the guy in the Jeep" who offered a friendly wave when he went by. One August day two years ago, she was running on area trails and discovered mounds of trash, some bagged and some scattered, left behind after a rave at a remote gravel pit.
She mentioned the trash in passing as she chatted with Lewis on her way home, but didn't give it much more thought. Later in the day, when she returned to the gravel pit and found it spotless, she knew it had to be Lewis' work and stopped by his cabin.
"That was how I met him and why I fell in love with him," she said. "That was the respect he had for the land and for everything.
"He was the kindest and most loving man I have ever known," she said.
Fournier said Lewis passed his abiding love for the land and all wildlife, care for his fellow humans and attention to detail to their sons.
"He taught his boys the simple pleasures," she said.
Casey Lewis fondly recalls fishing trips, weekend dirt-bike excursions, bow hunting, playing basketball and watching sports with his dad and his two brothers, Beau, 21, and Skyler, 12.
"I've been fishing since I was a toddler," Casey Lewis said, recounting how a fat trout in Howard Prairie Lake nearly pulled his tiny self into the water until his dad rushed in to grab boy and pole.
"He was so proud of his sons," Fournier said.
Casey Lewis, who hopes to be a helicopter pilot, had gone to Alaska this month to work on a helicopter ground crew. Skyler celebrated his 12th birthday Tuesday and was starting middle school. Beau works in construction.
"They will be his legacy," Warnecke said.
Most of all, those who loved Lewis want to ensure that he is remembered for more than his sudden, shocking death.
Investigators continue to unravel that mystery. Two fires, at 18196 and 12801 Dead Indian Memorial Road, were reported about an hour apart in the early morning hours Thursday. The unoccupied weekend home and Lewis' cabin each were completely consumed by flames, prompting suspicions of neighbors and authorities alike.A private memorial service for Lewis is planned by Josee Fournier, at the summit on Sept. 14, 2008.
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