WENATCHEE — Walker Lewis picked up his diploma during commencement exercises Friday, bringing to an end to two decades of Wenatchee High School experience for his parents, Doug and Lora Lewis.
“We’ve had kids there 20 straight years without a break,” Doug Lewis posted on Facebook. “Now, it’s someone else’s turn. So long Wenatchee School District.”
With six boys born over a span of 17 years, the Lewis family at one time had kids enrolled at five different schools — one each at Columbia and Washington elementary schools, Orchard Middle School, the high school and Wenatchee Valley College. At that point, Walker was still in diapers.
“I don’t think we’ve experienced anything different than other large families have experienced,” Doug Lewis said. “And, we’re not the first.”
The high school years stretched from 1998, when their eldest, Eric, started at WHS. He graduated in spring 2002. Dane started that fall, graduating in 2006, followed by Clark in 2008, Judd in 2012, Drake in 2015 and now Walker.
They went through some tough times in the process. Eric died of cancer in 2008 after an 11-month battle. Walker broke his neck in a snowboarding accident in November 2013 and still has some residual effects of the paralysis. He was a seventh grader at the time.
Last year, Lora Lewis, who was working as a part-time paraprofessional at Foothills Middle School, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
“The battle rages. She gets a break after two more rounds of chemo. We’ll see how things go from there,” Doug Lewis said.
School district staff members donated leave time to help the family with expenses.
“That’s an example of the kindness of the employees in the school district,” he said.
Two decades ago, the Lewis family was being introduced to high school, getting familiar with the attendance office and a discipline program that included handing out tickets for wearing banned clothing items.
Skater shoes, heavy pants, a baseball cap and hoodies were points of contention. The two older Lewis boys favored the fashion, leading to opportunities for school-parent communication.
As time went on, the school’s approach changed.
“I think things got kinder and more kid-oriented later,” Doug Lewis said. “They took a stronger interest in the kids individually rather than as part of one group or another — the jocks vs. the skaters. We didn’t see as much of that later. That’s great. It’s all been worked on to make it a nicer place to go. They have their hands full up there.”
Each of the boys took their own path.
“Some of them we had to keep an eye on to make sure they were at school. With the others, I think we were more proactive. The younger ones always told us what they’re going to be doing and what’s on the schedule for the day,” he said. “We didn’t know what to expect. It got easier as it went along — or we figured it out.”
The teachers got to know the family, but Lewis doesn’t recall them comparing the boys.
“We expected the kids to be good in class and not cause problems. Typically, that’s what we got at the parent-teacher conferences. That made us feel good that they were behaving. Some were a little more social than others — maybe a little too social, but that’s fine.”
Some were into sports; others not so much. Clark earned varsity letters all four years in football and track. Judd and Drake both lettered all four years in cross country, wrestling and track.
Doug and Lora Lewis got hooked on wrestling.
“We still go to those meets,” Doug Lewis said. “And we’ll probably still go to those in the coming years.”
As a parent volunteer, Lewis also started doing the public address announcing for the track meets.
“I’ve been doing that for 10 years at least,” he said. “I like it. I like being around people associated with the track team. We still have that tie.”
He isn’t ready to give that up.
“We now have this larger group of people we know in the community because of having kids in the school system for so long,” he said. “Some of the kids our kids went to school with are teachers. It’s nice to have that connection with people in the community.”