Longtime Alcoa Motormile car dealer Allen Lewis died early Thursday morning less than two weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Lewis, 68, is survived by his wife of 33 years Libby Lewis; daughter, Sabrina Dowdy; son, Allen Lewis, Jr.; and stepchildren Bill Riley and Kelly Calloway. He had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Lewis was a partner in the Twin City dealerships.
Riley said Lewis checked into the hospital May 31 for what they thought was pneumonia. “We found out a week ago Wednesday he had lung cancer and found out Thursday night it had spread throughout his body. Thursday night he had a couple strokes, so it was very unexpected,” Riley said of Lewis who died at 4 a.m. on Thursday, June 10.
McCammon Ammons and Click are handling the arrangements. The funeral service is set for Sunday at 5 p.m. followed by receiving of friends. There will be a private burial.
Riley, general manager of Twin City Nissan, said Lewis has been his stepfather since Riley was 6. Lewis grew up in Knoxville and graduated from Fulton High School before doing a stint in the Air National Guard which he joined at 17.
“He started working with the Coca-Cola Company at 18. He started off delivering, worked his way up and ended up being the sales manager of the plant,” he said. “He worked at the Coca-Cola plant in Maryville. That is what brought him to Maryville.”
Riley said Lewis was a hardworking company man. “I think people know him really well for that. He had two jobs his whole life. He spent 20 years with Coca-Cola and the last 30 years he spent with the Twin City Group,” Riley said.
Riley said his stepfather worked hard and even when on vacation or away on business was attentive to the dealerships he was responsible for. “He was always calling to check with his guys in the stores, whether he was in Korea or Hawaii, he was dialing to see what was going on and where everyone was,” Riley said.
Riley said Lewis cared for those who worked at the dealerships and those who bought vehicles from the dealerships. “He absolutely loved people and really appreciated all his friendships,” he said.
Riley said his stepfather also loved University of Tennessee football and had close friends in the program. “He and Coach Phillip Fulmer and Coach John Chavis were big buddies, and he was a big UT supporter,” Riley said. “He was the kind of person you wanted as a friend because he would do anything for you.”
Riley said that Lewis always pushed Riley to do a little more. “’You can sell a few more cars,’ he would say. I ran the Nissan store, and if I had a great day, he would say, ‘That’s fantastic, but it would wonderful to sell a few more.’”
Riley said that in the last few years he had relaxed a little bit and seemed more interested in seeing what was going on and was willing to take time off from work.
Riley said his fondest memories of Lewis as his stepfather were in recent years as Lewis grew close to his grandchildren. “He loved being around them, and he loved coming to their sports events and recitals,” Riley said.
Riley said the family is holding up well. “Because he was such a community person, the community has been there for my mom,” he said. “We have so many close friends who have stepped up and helped out.”
Jerry Hodge, owner/president Twin City Dealerships, said Lewis came to work at the Twin City Dealership in 1980 as a sales person after he left the Coca-Cola Co. “As a novice, he had no clue about the car business. He didn’t know anything about cars. He started from scratch,” Hodge said. “He took to it like a duck to water, and he put in a lot of effort and hard work. He did a good job as a sales person, sales manager, general manager and as an owner and dealer with us.”
Hodge said that over a 30-year period Lewis did a great job. “He was a very caring and compassionate person. He was like Will Rogers. He never met anyone he didn’t like,” Hodge said.
Hodge said Lewis devoted more than 40 hours a week to work. “He wasn’t a clock-puncher, and he was very interested in everything everybody did, not just his job,” Hodge said. “He was interested in your family and friends. He had a winning personality.”
Hodge said Lewis was a friend, colleague and business partner. “Allen would’ve been 69 this year in August. We have plenty of management backup and have been handing off duties to some of our younger guys,” he said. “We’ll carry on, but we’ll miss him. He was an integral part of our business and community.”
Charlie Stephens, partner with Twin City Dealerships, said Lewis originally was a terrific salesman when he came to work in 1980.
“He had his own unique way of selling. He started from scratch more or less and didn’t know anything about cars. Sometimes that is the best way. He had a great way with customers, a great rapport with them,” he said. “They were not only customers but friends from then on, and it is amazing how he did that.”
Stephens said Lewis went on to be sales manager over all seven dealerships and did a terrific job. “He was always a good friend, and you could call on him for anything, and he would be right there. He worked well with the employees and Jerry and me,” Stephens said. “I think we had an excellent relationship. He was certainly a big part of that, and he will be missed. When you’re with someone that long, with them more or less everyday in good times and bad times, he was very good friend.”
Chris Denny, general manager with Airport Honda, worked with Lewis for 20 years. “He was kind of like a dad. He was as great friend, a great boss. He had a heart of gold,” Denny said. “He was just a people person. He was fun to be around, and I don’t know he ever met a stranger.”
Steve West of West Chevrolet, said he and Lewis were in the same Sunday School class for more than 30 years. “He was a very generous person and was always willing to help with any project that came along,” West said. “He was just a good man.”
Sherri Gardner Howell, publisher of Blount Today, said she got to know Allen Lewis through his friendship with Jim and Marty Millsaps and as a customer of Blount Today.
“Allen trusted his friends,” Gardner Howell said. “When Jim and Marty told him about this new newspaper that was starting and encouraged him to put an ad in it, he signed up to be in Blount Today the first week we published in August of 2004.
“This past Thursday is the first week since that first issue that Blount Today Thursday has published without an Allen Lewis ad.”
Gardner Howell said she got to know Lewis and his wife, Libby, at community events they would attend around town.
“Last fall, at the Blount Hearing and Speech Away-Game Tailgate Party, I told Allen how much I appreciated his dedication to and continued support of Blount Today. ‘I hope your ad brings you lots of customers,’ I told him.
“Allen smiled and said quietly, ‘It does just fine. And, even if it didn’t, I like being associated with good things.’
“I walked away thinking, ‘So do we, Allen, and you’re one of the best.’ That’s how I feel today. We’ve lost a great man, and we’re going to miss him.”