Family and friends of Robert Lewis filled the Saint James Church to capacity Thursday morning to remember the highly successful Thoroughbred owner-breeder and businessman who died in his Newport Beach, Calif., home last Friday.
The ceremony, "In Joyful Remembrance of the life of Robert Bronson Lewis," included tributes from one of his fellow Budweiser beer distributors, George Couch, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and Lewis' son, Jeff.
Lukas commented that if everyone that Lewis touched during his lifetime turned out for the memorial, it would have to be conducted at the Rose Bowl.
"He reached out to everyone, no matter if you were a Budweiser executive or a hotwalker," Lukas said. "He treated everybody special."
Lukas spoke about his theory that the Kentucky Derby somehow honors "people of merit who have given so much" with a win in the race. "You can look at Frances Genter and Unbridled. Look at Paul Mellon and Sea Hero. Bill Young and Grindstone. And, of course, Bob and Beverly Lewis with Silver Charm and Charismatic.
"When Silver Charm won, I was so proud. I was in the race with another horse, but I was so happy for Beverly and Bob, I didn't even remember where I finished. I couldn't wait to go down and congratulate them. I know that to stand in that winner's circle was a special time. I just regretted that Bob (Baffert) did it before me."
Lukas gave the Lewises their second Derby victory in 1999, two years after Silver Charm's victory.
"Bob was the kind of guy," Lukas said, "that when you spent a day with him you went home at night and looked in the mirror and said, 'You know, because of him and his example I can do it better. I can be a better person.' So in the weeks, months, and years to come, maybe in Bob's honor you can call somebody you haven't talked to for a long time. Send a note to someone. Send that check off to that favorite charity. Better yet, just call somebody up and tell them you love them. Bob would have liked that."
Jeff Lewis said giving a public remembrance of his father was difficult because "so many people already know what a wonderful man he was.
"As his son what I can tell you is that he was truly the man that you knew and loved. Contrary to what some wags have suggested, he wasn't too good to be true. Dad was the real thing."
Jeff Lewis read a letter of condolence to Beverly Lewis that came from President George W. Bush.
He then spoke about racing victories his mother and father had in California the day before Bob Lewis died and on the afternoon of his death.
"I will always be convinced that when God took him last Friday morning, he marked his passing by giving him a race win on Thursday as he departed this earthly world, and then he gave him another race win on Friday afternoon to welcome him to his eternal life."
A private interment followed the service. The family has suggested that memorial donations may be made to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Foundation, 1798 N. Garey Avenue, Pomona, CA 91767.