Richard (Dick) Taylor Lewis

Date of Birth

April 19th, 1935

Date of Death

August 27th, 2016

Memorial Meeting

Salem Friends Meeting


Richard Taylor Lewis was born on April 19, 1935 to Emma Gertrude Taylor and Austin Flint Lewis in Los Angeles, California.  He grew up in Pasadena and attended First Friends Church and public schools there, including 2 years at Pasadena City College.   His Aunt Alice had been a teacher in Japan from 1904-23, sent by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and her stories about Japan influenced her nephew over the years.

Dick spent his high school summers on the wheat farm of his uncle and cousins, Wayne. Gordon and Macy Lewis, near the small Quaker community of Gate in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  Wayne and Gordon were both Conscientious Objectors (COs) which Dick admired and later he followed their example. In Pasadena he was active with young Friends. He also developed an interest in Forestry, and enrolled at The University of California in Berkeley, receiving a BS degree in 1956, with summer jobs in national and state forests.  When he registered as a CO, he applied to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and was sent to Japan for two years.  His work there included distribution of US surplus food and clothing for the needs in post-war Japan, teaching at Friends Girls School in Tokyo, and serving as financial officer for the AFSC unit.  He learned Japanese, and participated in many volunteer weekend work camps.

He worked in forestry in Los Angeles County  for two years, as head of the nursery at Henniger Flats, growing trees for planting along roadsides as part of a fire prevention program.  However, his interest in Japan was strong, so he decided to return to Berkeley to do a Masters in Asian Studies.  He attended Berkeley Friends Meeting, where he was active with Young Friends and where he met Rose Warner, a graduate student working on a PhD in political philosophy. They found their ideas, religious beliefs and sense of purpose in life were in close harmony and made plans for a life of service, working together to make this a better world in any way they could.

They were married on January 29, 1966 under the care of Berkeley Friends Meeting, and began a year-long wedding trip around the US. They interviewed with AFSC in Philadelphia and accepted positions as Co-Directors of the East Asia International Work camp program, based in Tokyo, with projects in Japan, Korea and Okinawa.  This was wonderful, since Dick was fluent in Japanese, and they both loved work camps.  It was very satisfying work, finding projects where unskilled volunteer workers could make a difference in a local community, recruiting students - mostly from Asian countries, a few from US and Europe- arranging travel and helping as co-leaders.  They enjoyed working as a team in this program, including doing earthquake relief in Japan, building terraced fields for a community of cured lepers in Korea; and in Okinawa planting trees for a windbreak around sugar cane fields.  After two years they took the long way home, by the Trans-Siberian Railroad across USSR, down into Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Iran, etc. - Dick's second round-the-world trip.

Dick entered a PhD program in Japanese politics at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1969, and they were active in University Friends Meeting.  They had been involved with the Friend in the Orient Committee of Pacific Yearly Meeting, and continued with that work - arranging to send Friends to be supportive to small Quaker groups in Asian countries, including South Korea.  In 1973 they returned to Japan for Dick to do dissertation research.  He completed and defended his thesis on Regional Economic Development in Japan,  A Case Study of Kashima, in 1978.

After receiving his degree, they spent much of a year traveling in Europe, and he was a visiting scholar at the School of Peace Studies at Bradford University in Yorkshire, England, where they attended Meeting. They then decided to put down roots in Rose's native Oregon, and in 1980 bought 10 acres between Salem and Mt. Angel, where they developed a Permaculture plan, planting thousands of trees and bushes. After moving to Oregon, Dick worked at Job Corps in Portland, at Hillcrest juvenile facility, and then taught Japanese at several high schools and Chemeketa Community College.

Both felt strongly about adding to the population of the earth, but felt they wanted a family, so in 1983 went to Guatamala to meet Ana del Carmen and Marta Beatrix, ages 6 and 3, and bring them home to Oregon. Their parents were Mayan Indians and had been killed in a massacre in their village the year before- victims of the genocide against indigenous people.  Dick was elected to the Parkersville School Board while they were away, and the girls became the focus of the family, learning English quickly and adapting to their new life with enthusiasm.  Unfortunately racism also came into the family.  Rose and Dick knew Oregon was a white state but believed in a Rainbow World, where everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.  Sadly, racism still happens, and Rose still makes that her primary focus of concern.

The Lewis Quaker ancestry goes back to a founder, Margaret Fell according to family records.  Her daughter Sarah was married to William Meade whose trial, with William Penn in 1670, set an important legal precedent.  The outcome gave juries the right to freedom from coercion by the judge, supporting Penn and Meade in their right to speak in public after their Meetinghouse was closed and locked by the king.  Dick’s ancestor Henry Lewis left Wales in 1682 because of persecution of Friends, and bought 1000 acres from William Penn in what is now Haverord township.  In 1979 Dick and Rose visited the property, (called Maen Coch Red Stone) near Narberth in Wales, and later found Henry’s home in Pennsylvania, now a museum also called Maen Coch.  Henry Lewis was appointed by Penn to be a peacemaker, to help resolve conflicts without litigation or violence, as part of his “Holy Experiment”.  William Warner also bought a nearby property, and was also a Peacemaker.  Rose’s maiden name was Warner, but they don’t know whether their ancestors were neighbors.  What a pity Penn’s peacemaker program did not prevail as the new country took shape.

After retirement Dick and Rose were finally able to go to China, spending two years teaching English at Chengdu University of Information Technology, and enjoyed contacts with several Quakers who had been part of early Friends work in Sichuan. Returning to Oregon, they decided they wanted to do more work with the Alternatives to Violence Project, a major interest during his last years. They helped with workshops at the federal prison at Sheridan and got AVP started at Oregon State Penitentiary 2005-2015.  In 2011 they realized they had neglected the whole continent of South America, so traveled for several months by bus, train and boat through Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, visiting with Quakers, AVP folks and FOR projects.   

Salem Friends Meeting was Dick's Quaker home since 1980.  He and Rose were active in the meeting. He served in many roles, including clerk. They persuaded the Meeting to sponsor its first Peace Vigil in Salem in 1982, which continues to this day.  Dick represented North Pacific Yearly Meeting on the national boards of AFSC and Friends Committee on National Legislation.  He helped start the Friends Worship Group at Oregon State Penitentiary in 2008, which is ongoing.  He had joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation while a high school student in Pasadena, and was active throughout his life.  Dick had a keen and active mind.  He enjoyed lively conversations, and seemed to be interested in everything.  He was known for his sense of humor, often coming up with jokes or puns or funny stories.  Another gift was his ability to fix things.  Whether it was car repair, farm equipment maintenance, fixing appliances, or  electronics - he seemed to be able to fix anything.

Music was a big part of Dick's life.  He began piano lessons at age 5, and continued to play right up to the day before he went to the hospital with pneumonia on August 21.  He had a wonderful ear for music, and was able to remember hundreds of songs and melodies, including classical, folk, spirituals, swing and boogie woogie.  He had an uncanny talent of hearing a melody once and in a few minutes putting together a full-blown rendition, with amazing chords and embellishments.  It was a beautiful gift, and brought joy to many.  Dick was a genuinely good human being, who let his life speak for peace with justice.  He is missed.          

Dick is survived by wife Rose, daughters Carmen and Marta and grandson Mckinley Taylor Lewis.