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Looking back, looking forward

South Boston News
Mary Fran Lewis sits in front of her painting “Sunrise in Lake Country”, currently on display at The Galleria in downtown Clarksville. / April 29, 2010
Mary Fran Lewis at 93 years might be at what some consider the twilight of her life. But you would never arrive at that possibility once you talk with her. Her spunk and optimism, and the sparkle in her eyes, betray her age.

Still an active artist, Lewis is donating one of her recent oil paintings, “Sunrise over Lake Country”, to the Clarksville Enrichment Complex to be hung in its main lobby. Depicting a view from her studio window, looking east over Buggs Island Lake and Goat Island, the morning’s rising sun expresses her optimism about life and more specifically our community and its future.

“Needless to say, much has changed in this area since 1947, but I think Clarksville has such a potential for growth that the time is finally here where we have the ingredients necessary for not only getting this community services building built, but we also have the people qualified and interested in bringing it to life,” said Lewis.

So how did a young lady, who grew up in Berkeley, Calif. in the Roaring 20’s and moved to Hawaii in the latter parts of the Great Depression, end up in Mecklenburg County?

Well, it was World War II and Mary Frances Thatcher was in charge of making arrangements for R&R for Naval Aviators between missions. One of those aviators was Meriwether Fielding (“Stormy”) Lewis.

During their first meeting all Lewis could talk about was the family farm, “Merifield”, in Clarksville and how he yearned to return after the war. And that Lewis did, with his now wife and two young children, John almost 3 and Claire just 6 months old. Lewis dove into her new life and responsibilities of child rearing and farming and never looked back. Two more sons, Meriwether Jr. (“Sambo”) and Frank, followed.

Lewis said, “What with a naval aviator as a husband, who was also a cattle farmer, and who traveled many thousands of miles flying for the Navy, I had little time for community service aside from what comes along with raising children, PTA’s, and helping our tenant farmer and his family.”

The best part of their farm land, down near the edge of Grassy Creek, now sits at the bottom on Buggs Island Lake while the higher, wooded section is now what’s called Merifield Acres sub-division.

With her four children grown and moved away, along with 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, Lewis continues to remain active in the Clarksville community and can still feel its pulse.

“It is exciting to hear the comments about the Clarksville Enrichment Complex and how proud people are to be a part of it,” exclaims Lewis. “I have served on various civic committees and I honestly feel that because this community facility encompasses so many different, yet compatible endeavors, people realize there will be something for everyone at The Complex.”

Mary Fran Lewis was one of the early members of the Mecklenburg County Services Corporation (MCCSC) “One Hundred Club”. By contributing her money, as well as her artistic talents through her painting, to support the Clarksville Enrichment Complex, Mrs. Lewis is setting an example for the whole community, regardless of age, to support this new community services endeavor.

“We have a gold mine of very talented retirees in Clarksville, and it appears many of them are willing and happy to share theirs ideas and experiences to make this facility (The Complex) become a reality, unique to our population,” explains Lewis with her twinkle and optimism. And what a wonderful example she sets.

The success of The Complex will be directly related to the participation of the community. Anyone wanting more information on The Clarksville Enrichment Complex, looking for ways to become involved, or wishing to be a “One Hundred Club” member (pledging $1000 / year for 5 years) should contact Joe Davidson (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 434-738-8232) or Russ Messier (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 434-374-4204).

The Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening ceremonies of the Clarksville Enrichment Complex, originally planned for May 6 and 22, respectively, will be delayed until the final inspection of the building is completed.

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