Harrell Lewis' Legacy of Love

Harrell Lewis during the Korean War.

Born in 1932 to Jesse Lewis and Anna Smith Lewis, Harrell was a man who loved the Lord above all else. He was a proud lifetime citizen of Maynardville where he was well known and loved. He married wife, Ima Ruth Cooke, on November 24, 1951 to begin their nearly sixty-three years together before her death in 2014.

Harrell was a 1950 graduate of Horace Maynard High School. Although they were the same age, Ima had graduated in 1949 from Hubbs Grove School which is why they really didn’t know each other. They met when Harrell saw Ima washing windows at her father, Lee Cooke’s, home. The rest is history.

Ima was the ideal picture of a preacher’s wife. She joyed in spreading love. She was well-known for the thousands of stack cakes and sourdough breads that she baked over the years. While Harrell pastored at Leatherwood Baptist and Head of Barren, she was the pianist for the churches.

The couple had three children with their first, daughter Patricia Jarvis, being born in 1953. Son Gaines, who was killed in a car accident on Thanksgiving in 1979, was the second child, born in 1959. Their third child, Timothy, died as a youngster at ten years old from tick fever. Both Ima and Harrell had much love to share with their children, grandchildren, and great grands.

Harrell often joked about all the “Girls, Girls, Girls” in his life. He had two granddaughters, Patricia’s daughter Lori Clay and Gaines’ daughter Misty Seal. Lori has two daughters and Misty has three. He loved all his girls so dearly.

Harrell joined the service in 1952, before the birth of their first child. He was stationed in Virginia, soon being shipped on a boat to Germany where he served the majority of his time. He completed Basic Training while overseas during the Korean War. While serving, he worked in grave registration using his experience working with his father in law at Cooke Mortuary.

Harrell liked to tell that he went over on a ship and came back on a ship. He said he asked the Lord if He would let him get back home, he would go to church and be a good Christian man. So, when he got back he kept his word. He began attending Hubbs Grove Baptist Church where Preacher Tindell was pastoring at the time. He continued to attend regularly, leading to him being saved as a grown man. From this time on, his life was clearly focused on the Lord.

After returning from the service, he was also helping run a little grocery store where the funeral home is currently. In the area there was the mortuary, a workshop in which they lived above, and then the store. Later came a sawmill and building supply.

Harrell is very well known in the community for his carpentry skills and over sixty years of ownership of Lewis Building Supply. The building supply stemmed off after he had been building houses. The business boomed until it burned in 1983. A period of time passed before Harrell rebuilt and reopened the business. He never really wanted to retire so he put a note on the door that said, “Call me if you need anything,” in later years.

After Ima’s death in 2014, the winter was a terrible season. There was a long-lasting ice storm and Harrell became determined to go to Knoxville and get lumber every day during the storm. It was so severe that his truck wouldn’t even go back in the driveway, but Harrell having to have things his way, made up his mind that he would make those trips.

In late fall of 2018, he went into Maple Court Assisted Living Memory Care in Powell. There he was loved by all. He also loved all the people there and having that social interaction.

In younger years, he played banjo and fiddle with some of the local musicians. He was a carpenter by trade. He became somewhat of a collector over the years. He loved clocks and making presence at rummage sales. At one time, Ima ran a ceramic shop out of the basement. He would help her with painting and pouring occasionally. Of all his hobbies, going to church was his priority.

Although Harrell was saved, ordained at, and belonged to Hubbs Grove Church, he had been attending Fellowship Christian for some time. There, his nephew, Johnny Smith, is pastor.

He was rather proud to be the nephew of singer Carl Smith. He had friends everywhere he went. There were some special friends at Farm Bureau and New South Credit Union in his last years. He loved to have a good time and share his sense of humor.

Harrell was a very good moral man. His last conversation was with his daughter. She was with him and said, “Daddy you seem sad today.” He shook his head yes; he didn’t talk much anymore. She said, “Why are you sad?” He looked over at a picture of himself and Ima from years past. She asked him if he was wanting to go to Heaven with her. He agreed once more. She said, “It’s okay Daddy. Then why are you still sad?” He said as they both shed tears, “You.” With tears weltering in her eyes, she let him know that is was okay for him to go. That God would take care of her like she had always been taught by her daddy. “I’m sad and I miss him so bad, but I’m happy of the memories, good and bad, that I had with them and I’m thankful for the way I was raised,” shared Patricia.

One of the things Harrell preached more than anything was love. His love gleaned. Above everything else, he loved the Lord and witnessed so that others would do the same. It is hoped that Harrell’s undying love for the Lord, his family, and his work is what he is remembered by and not the last years of his dementia. He led many people to the Lord to be saved. He had many friends. His main goal that he loved to share was “be prepared to meet the Lord, be saved.”

Harrell Lewis with wife Ima Ruth Cooke Lewis

Harrell Lewis and wife Ima Ruth Cooke Lewis

Photo of a Quilt of Thalor that was presented to Harrell Lewis as an honor for his service during the Korean War.

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