By Darrel Burnett, Executive Director ~ The Automobile Gallery
If we are fortunate in this life we find a way to leave our mark on the world. William “Red” Lewis left far more than a mark…Red left a landmark. The Automobile Gallery & Event Center was Red’s last tip of the cap to our community and to the world before bidding farewell to this life January 7th, 2021.
Perched atop his high stack of successes The Automobile Gallery stands alone as his proudest accomplishment. How appropriate that the Gallery was his last stop before going home for the last time.
I was privileged to take a few steps with Red on his amazing life’s journey and oh what a journey it was. Two or three times a day we huddled to talk business, the present, the future and, sometimes, just life. It always amazed me how Red could say more in four words than it takes most people two paragraphs to say. Though he was a man of few words he was not a man of few cars. By all accounts, Red owned nearly 300 in his lifetime, but there are three that grabbed hold of his heart and never let go.
Had it not been for this 1930 Model A The Automobile Gallery & Event Center might never have existed.
This is the first car Red and his father Harold restored nearly four decades ago. As proof that restoring a car can be a slice of heaven, wonderful stories abound of father and son driving the nuns from St. Willebrord to church on Sunday mornings or out for a cruise on a sunny day.
At the age of 15, Red parted with the princely sum of $25 for a Nankeen Creme 1949 Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 Convertible. That beautiful old beast was Red’s first car and also the first Olds with the legendary Rocket 88 V-8 under the hood.
Red tested the limits of that Rocket V-8 the way he tested the patience of the nuns at Premontre High School during his formative years.
After years of searching, an identical Nankeen Crème Futuramic 98, with an equally entertaining story, is a permanent fixture in our Gallery collection.
With a gleam in his eye Red was fond of saying, “I’m an 18-year-old boy with 57 years of experience.” That 18-year-old boy oozed out of every pore August 31st, 2020 when our 2020 Ford GT arrived at The Automobile Gallery. On nights when I was working late into the evening the silhouette of our great Founder could be seen all alone soaking in every inch of this space-age creation. It was a driven man admiring a supercar that begged to be driven.
As I tell visitors to The Automobile Gallery & Event Center, what separates our collection from the other 275 million vehicles on the road are the stories.
Thank you for allowing me to share the best story of all. Rest in peace my friend!
We thank you for the outpouring of well wishes and sympathies for Red, The Lewis Family and our Gallery Family. If you would like to help keep Red’s vision of helping young people with their education, please read below to learn about his incredible accomplishments and life and how you can continue Red’s mission.