By Megan Tackett
Special to The Sopris Sun
Rainbows. That’s one of the topics of conversation Amanda Ingle fondly remembers discussing with her husband before he died.
“Before he passed, it was rainbow season here in Rifle,” Ingle said. “And he told me he likes to read up on rainbows because he feels it has something to do with the meaning of life. If you read up on rainbows, it’s really interesting. There’s a lot to it,” she continued. Rainbows are the result of an optical phenomenon that occurs when water droplets reflect, refract and disperse light: we see them, but they’re intangible.
It’s a good metaphor for Shaw Lewis’s life and recent death. The light may have faded, but everyone who knew him still feels his impact.
“There’s just never going to be another Mr. Shaw,” said Taryn Kampe, lead kindergarten teacher at Ross Montessori School, where Lewis taught. “He loved teaching because he was so childlike himself; he still had that innocence. That lust for learning. That spark. And he had the humor to go with it.”
Humor and curiosity are repeating descriptors for Lewis among those who worked with him at the school. Kampe recounted an April Fool’s Day, when Lewis — who drove the school bus, among myriad other roles — blared the classic ice-cream truck song from the bus for the entirety of his route to and from school.
“Everyone thought the ice-cream truck was coming,” she said. “And to me, that is pure genius. That’s what I really enjoyed about him. He had this awesome, quirky sense of humor.”
He also had an unending curiosity — so much so that fellow teachers joked that he was banned from future field trips because he asked so many questions.
“He would attend the field trips as a chaperone or a driver, and then he’d end up asking more questions than anybody else,” Lee Thompson, facility and transportation manager at Ross Montessori, said of Lewis. But, he noted, Lewis’s curiosity benefitted everyone present, even if students didn’t always get a word in edgewise. “He would ask 100 questions, and 90 of them were questions that nobody else would have thought to ask.”
Ross Montessori is hosting a Celebration of Life for Lewis at the school from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 16, where anyone in the community can share stories, listen and generally try to heal from the loss.
“He had told his dad that he wanted a party, whenever his time came,” Sonya Hemmen, head of the school, said regarding the event. “So we will have some fun opportunities for people to share about him and celebrate his life.” She added that the celebration is open to all ages and everyone is welcome.
Lewis leaves several roles to fill, some of which simply cannot be replaced: husband, father, bus driver, technology teacher, reading assistant, friend.
“Besides transportation, he taught technology — that was one of his big passions was technology and science — so he did a lot of computer work with kids. And when he wasn’t doing that and when he wasn’t driving [a] bus, he was also reading with kids,” Thompson said about Lewis. “He was always doing something here. He was always doing something that made an impact.”
Carmen Montgomery, the school’s reading specialist, worked closely with Lewis, as he was part of the school’s reading team.
“He became — very quickly — a very, very valuable part of the team,” she said. “Really, I’m just baffled how we’re going to figure all of that out. We will, but boy, we sure do miss him. On a personal level, you couldn’t ask for a more compassionate, warm and funny colleague.”
Lewis was hit by another vehicle when he was pulled over for a traffic stop on westbound I-70 near Silt on Wednesday evening, Aug. 16. Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire pronounced him dead at the scene. His death was ruled an accident — but a preventable one, Ingle feels.
“It was just so silly that that happened,” she said through tears. Colorado enforces a move-over driving law that mandates drivers to maintain a one-lane distance from pulled-over emergency vehicles when emergency lights are turned on.
Lewis had left the school that day and was en route to his second job at Domino’s Pizza.
“He got pulled over trying to make everybody happy,” she said of his busy schedule. “He never made time for himself. He was always on the go with his parents, with me, with his kids, with work. He was selfless. Selfless and compassionate would be the perfect way to describe him.”
Both Domino’s and Ross Montessori are actively fundraising for the Ingle-Lewis family. Hemmen launched a GoFundMe campaign (www.gofundme.com/funeral-costs-family-support) on behalf of the school that she hopes will continue to garner financial support from the community at large. As of this writing, more than 60 people have contributed more that $7,500. The money will be used for “anything that Amanda sees fit that they need help with,” she said.
Ingle knows exactly how she wants that money used: toward her two children’s higher education.
“Everybody is helping significantly; it’s crazy,” Ingle said of the incoming financial contributions. “I want people to know: that money is going to the kids’ college. We didn’t have that chance. Neither of us got to go to college — I went to community college later in life — but now they have that chance. They’re going to be OK.” Through the tragedy and loss, knowing that her children will be able to pursue further education is the one comforting thing to have happened, she said.
And it’s what Lewis would have wanted: “I just think he wants people to know to look into what’s out there in the world. Don’t stop learning, just keep going,” Ingle said of her late husband. “I think he really saw the beauty in life that maybe people just take for granted. He saw rainbows as reading material.”