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Tree trimmer "touched lives"

Stephen "Laz" Lewis looks onto the field at Candlestick Park in 1989. Lewis died Thursday in a tree cutting accident.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

He was one of western Nevada County’s original hippies who never stopped following his ideals, according to one friend.

Stephen “Laz” Lewis, 52, brought cords of wood to the poor and volunteered once a week at the Food Bank of Nevada County.



He also befriended seniors and bartered to the hilt, recently providing tree-trimming services to Jug Handle State Reserve near Fort Bragg so his son’s eighth-grade class at Yuba River Charter School could take a field trip there.




“He, in his own quiet way, he just touched a lot of lives, and he wasn’t in it for the recognition,” said longtime friend Chris Owen. “It’s just who he was.”

Lewis, the owner of Crown Tree Service, died Thursday after falling 100 feet from a tree at a home outside Nevada City.

About 300 people are expected for a Saturday gathering at his home, given the outpouring of remembrances on KVMR, where Lewis’ 22-year-old son, Hollywood screenwriter Mario Sorrentino, took calls.

“It reinforced the fact I knew he was a local icon here and just touched so many people,” he said. “I knew he was a pillar of the community out here. I just didn’t know how big.”

In the 1970s, Lewis built his Nevada City-area home with scavenged and bartered materials.

“We’re talking about somebody who goes on a dump run and says, ‘This is clear-cut redwood. You can’t find this anymore,'” said his wife, Robin Ray. “Every time he came from the dump, he had some new treasure.”

Everyone, including the band, was nude at his wedding party with his first wife. The births of the first two of his four sons were marked with planting apple and pear trees, fertilized by their placentas. His father’s ashes were scattered on the land, and his will be, too.

“Beyond its obvious beauty, he just felt it to be a very sacred place to him,” Ray said.

The banks of the South Yuba River were his stomping grounds, “and he knew every single nook and cranny of that river and loved it like life itself,” Ray said.

He also loved baseball, and when he couldn’t get his sons into the inaugural San Francisco Giants game at PacBell Park, he joined them in McCovey Cove, Sorrentino said, in a canoe Lewis painted orange and black.

When the Giants played at Candlestick Park, Lewis once bartered for a loaf of good bread, then exchanged the bread for a better view of the game.

He made his living cutting trees, which he first learned in the Downieville area, after moving there from the Bay Area, Ray said, and he had strong legs from climbing.

Before his fall, the Sheriff’s Office said, Lewis wasn’t secured by a safety line as he scaled and trimmed a tree.

“He never used that line, and that used to drive some of his fellow climbers – they didn’t get it. That was Laz. He just didn’t use it,” Ray said.

A potluck/memorial service for Stephen “Laz” Lewis is at 1 p.m. Saturday at his Nevada City-area home off Cement Hill Road. Shuttle service begins at noon from Rood Administrative Center.

Donations to the Laz Lewis Fund, for his teen-age sons, may be made at Bank of America branches in Nevada City, Grass Valley and Glenbrook Basin.


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