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Ed Lewis teaches for the people, not praise
Or So It Seems

Lt. Ed Lewis says he is surrounded by caring people who work hard. He likes it that way.

As you jot down his rapid-fire praise for everyone around him, you might wonder whether they leave anything for Lewis to do. You won't get that answer from Lewis.

The fire and life safety educator for the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Service sees every training session as a chance to teach the students and to train the trainers.

"I love teaching," Lewis says. And it shows.

Lewis is a teacher's teacher. He's about people, not about praise.

"We've gotta take this to all the kids, like I told you," Lewis says in a guiding but positive voice as he directs the cadets to prepare for a children's event.

Moments later, he returns to his rapid-fire voice as he reels off his training duties and tells how many people share in that mission. That's 16 cadets, 75 volunteer firefighters, nine career firefighters and other part-time workers. Running a training program without their help would be a challenge, he says. "It would be difficult. It really would be."

One moment Lewis is pointing at each firefighter and cadet, announcing their names and praising their work.

The next moment he is crawling across the carpet, showing a youngster how to escape from a smoke-filled room.

Minutes later, he's in the fire station lobby, again sharing the credit.

He can't say enough about Lisa Lewis. They've been together 32 years. "She supports me in anything I'm doing," he says. "She comes to most of my events."

"I really couldn't have done all of it without my wife," he says.

Sometimes some recognition will make its way past his defenses. It will broaden his already expansive smile, and it will add yet another certification plaque to his crowded wall. He prefers to speak of the good that comes from his work. "For example, and it was four or five years ago, we had a CPR class and it was a mother and daughter," he recalls. "And that Sunday her kid brother was choking, and she was able to do the Heimlich. She called me up to thank me."

About two months ago, there was a 102-year-old woman who fell ill. Lewis had to use the rescue breathing skills that he demonstrates regularly. The patient survived. "The family just hugged me and thanked me, but I was just doing what I had to do," he says. His wall holds no plaque acknowledging that CPR save. It holds no record of the previous four saves.

And Lewis didn't tell anyone. "Until they asked me," he says.

He stands ready to deliver fire detectors to the elderly and even installs them. "They get them free," he says, And then, typically, he gives credit to an organization that provided a grant.

No, he doesn't spend all his time on fire department business. He's been coaching baseball for 29 years and coaching soccer for 26 years. On Sundays he goes to Springfield Baptist Church, where he directs the health ministry, whose nurses tend to anyone who feels faint.

The phone rings. It's for James. "Not many people know that my name is really James," says Lewis. "James Edward Lewis."

But soon, in his words, he is "just Ed" again.

Fire Chief Bruce Tanner agrees with Lewis on the need to build the team. "It takes teamwork," Tanner says. "No one person can do it all."

Tanner says Lewis does a great job of recruiting and utilizing people.

He does have some "me" time now and then, playing golf. That's where the teacher's humility wavers, if only slightly. "I do all right," he says.

We all could learn a lot about CPR, fire safety and golf from Lt. James Edward Lewis. We also could learn a lot about getting it done and getting along from "just Ed."

Web posted on Thursday, July 14, 2011

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