The funeral of Dennis Lewis, the man who masterminded British inter-county triumphs for Shropshire at both junior and senior level, will be held on Tuesday at 11am at Telford Crematorium.
He died of pneumonia aged 69 in Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital on November 20, sending bowlers from all over the country into mourning.
A proud Salopian, Lewis returned to the county of his birth in 1999 and was soon elected chairman of the Mid Shropshire League, sparking an upward turn in its fortunes as well as playing a key part in two County Cup triumphs of Wellington’s Sir John Bayley Club, where he was club secretary.
But it was on the Shropshire scene as a selector that Lewis, from Shawbirch in Telford, made his biggest impact after retiring from the National Health Service as director of mental health in Warwickshire.
His organisational skills, attention to detail and ability to inspire both players and officials, of all ages, guided Shropshire’s under-18s to a Drakes Pride county championship success in 2006 and a host of appearances in other finals.
Yet is was the senior prize for being inter-county champions, the Crosfield Cup, that Lewis had his heart set on winning – and he planned the triumph with typical aplomb.
He was the leader of the Gang of Four selectors, along with John Nash, Mick Jones and Bob Moss, that was swept into office at the county AGM in 2006, when Lewis promised to win the Crosfield Cup in their three-year term.
That’s just what Shropshire did too in 2009 with an awesome performance to beat reigning champions Yorkshire both home and away in the final, Lewis commenting at the time: “I am absolutely delighted because of what this says about Shropshire bowls.”
It was, said his wife June: “One of the proudest days of his life.”
And that’s saying something for someone who received a commendation for bravery for saving people from a fire at Shelton Hospital in 1968; escorted the Queen around a new hospital in Warwick; and spoke in the House of Commons.
A no-nonsense footballer who had a spell with Shrewsbury Town in his younger days, Dennis married June in March 1968 and, before they returned to Shropshire, their home was in Kenilworth.
It was there that he got involved with North Midlands on the county bowls scene, but it was back in the Shropshire fold where he made such a massive impact.
Tributes have flooded in from all over the county - by letter, email, via Facebook and on the Shropshire Bowls Forum.
A Mid Shropshire spokesman said: “He was a brilliant chairman of our league and leaves us with a massive void to try and fill.
“We have put back our monthly meeting by a week because it clashes with the day of the funeral, but the league’s officers have met to discuss how we can honour him – and try and plot a way forward without his firm but fair hand on the rudder.”
Story courtesy of the Shropshire Star: