It’s hard to imagine an El Dorado Rose on a motorcycle, but Rosemary Lewis can remind one that anything is possible.
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Lewis, 71, of Placerville was nominated by American Legion Post 119, who seems to be blessed by this indefatigable worker and good-hearted woman who always goes beyond the call of duty.
“I don’t ride much any more,” said Lewis, her deep brown eyes twinkling, “but Post 119 is a riding post. They brought me in on a motorcycle to my Rose reception. It was wonderful!”
And what was Lewis wearing?
“I wore a long gown, a hat, gloves … the whole nine yards,” Lewis said.
Apparently one can ride on a motorcycle in a long dress without problems. The dusty rose-colored ensemble still looked lovely, pristine and undamaged.
If one’s image of an El Dorado Rose is of muted daintiness, Lewis is not that type. She is a woman who was born on a farm in Minnesota, and she spent her formative years laboring in the house and on the land in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota … Nebraska.
It was a meager existence and they moved around a lot, Lewis reported.
“You see, my dad … didn’t like to pay taxes,” Lewis said with wry good humor and ingrained honesty. “Every time the taxes became due, we moved to another farm, usually in a different state.”
They always had plenty to eat, as they always had a great garden, overseen by Lewis’ mother, who was also a good and abundant cook.
Poverty, frequent moves and farm labor didn’t keep Lewis from her studies. She was an excellent, motivated student who seemed to adapt to new environments without complaint.
One gets the impression that Lewis can do anything.
And she can. While looking sweet and down-to-earth, one can tell by Lewis’ energy and verve that she is not the Southern Belle prototype. But when she dresses in her beautiful long gowns and other ensembles she is just like the proverbial Rose, the feminine attire highlighting the grace and charm that radiates from within.
While blue jeans and leather is the fashion for American Legion Post 119, Lewis is accustomed to dressing the part of a courtly lady. A long time member of the Emblem Club, where formal functions require stately attire, Lewis already had many of the outfits she would need as El Dorado Rose.
This must be a red letter year for Lewis. Not only was she nominated to be El Dorado Rose, she became 2012-13 president of the Emblem Club, a lofty and responsible position that one attains by hard work and votes.
“For my Rose activities I used some of my Emblem Club gowns,” Lewis said matter-of-factly. “You know Judy Muetz, who was named the Golden Rose? She gave me four dresses, too. The Rose Court kind of passes the dresses back and forth, for whoever needs them or fits them,” Lewis said in her forthright way.
“My dress for the pageant is all blue with blue lace. I haven’t decided on the hat, but it will be hot that day, so I’ll definitely carry my lacy parasol and wear the fingerless gloves,” Lewis said with a sense of anticipation.
Carried by ladies back in the day, parasols are little umbrellas that protect one from the sun. Derived from Spanish, the word parasol literally means to stop (block) the sun.
Lewis seems to exemplify that radiance, that light from within that shines from her eyes and smile, no matter what she has endured.
She seems to bask in the glow of having become president of the Emblem Club, and she seems to take the extra work and responsibility in stride.
“I’m always doing something,” Lewis asserted. “And whenever there’s something to do, I just do it.”
Lewis, who is also into gardening, fishing and mining among other things, cares for her home, her property and her husband, who is ambulatory but disabled. Lewis has always undertaken all her tasks with great aplomb and dedication. She is in the process of making corsages for the Black Powder Shooting event.
In the meantime, Lewis is busy, needlepointing whenever she can. She’s making 500 luggage tags, a favor which will be distributed at an Emblem Club reunion next year. Each American flag is done by needlepoint, a craft in which Lewis excels. She has already made some 270 and counting. The plastic-covered luggage tag flags are irresistible and everyone who sees them, wants one, including supervisor Ray Nutting,
“I’m a perfectionist,” Lewis admitted, which is why she is making 500 luggage tags almost all by herself. She wants them to be impeccable, so it is easier for her to accept very little help.
“I needlepoint while watching television, and I take my work with me wherever I go,” said Lewis joyfully.
Like all Roses and Rose candidates, Lewis’s beauty emanates from within. When one digs a little deeper into Lewis’ personality and history, it is even more amazing and filled with laughter.
“Growing up with four brothers, you learn to have a good sense of humor,” Lewis chuckled.
After an early first marriage which brought Lewis to the Bay Area, Lewis swore that she would never marry again.
But she met her second husband in a singles bowling league. Married for some 16 years before he died at age 51, Lewis never regretted it. Besides, he introduced her to motorcycles and the American Legion.
They had wanted to nominate Lewis before, but she was still taking care of her youngest son, who passed away two years ago at age 46.
“He was in pain all the time,” Lewis said compassionately. For 10 years, she was his caretaker, a duty she undertook with love and without complaint.
Among myriad activities, Lewis is on the Emblem Club’s Scholarship Committee, and is back to being chairman of the See’s Candy fundraiser. The Emblem Club helps the Elks Club on its major project, the acquisition of vehicles that provide transportation for the handicapped and disabled to doctor’s appointments, etc.
Club activities keep Lewis quite busy but it doesn’t deter her from pursuing her gold mining and opal mining hobbies.
This 5 foot 3 inch gray-haired grandma is a force to be reckoned with. She looks for gold on the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes River and the opal claim is in Northern Nevada.
The season starts in late spring, and opal miners are taken to a site near the Oregon border, and adventure she shared with her late son Robert.
“For $500, you basically get a pile of dirt,” Lewis explained. “Then you go through this mountain of dirt looking for the opals.”
Some opals are clear and some are black. They are actually a silicate that replaces wood in a burned out forest, Lewis clarified. The first opal Lewis uncovered in her pile is worth many, many times her original investment.
But this girl who lived off the land as a child, even without electricity in Wyoming, doesn’t seem to focus on money or prestige.
With Lewis, it all seems to be about hard work, responsibility, fun and love. As a member of the Rose Court, or as El Dorado Rose, Lewis will continue to shine inside and out, reflecting joy in her abundant laughter.
Her value is not hidden in the burned out embers and sediment of the forest primeval like the opals she seeks. With Lewis, what you see is what you get and it’s radiant.