Aug. 17, 1937 — June 4, 2012
Lewis (Lewy) Jacob McGaffee, 74, entered Heaven on June 4, 2012. A resident of Rescue, Calif., for the past 14 years, Lewy was born in Onslow, Iowa, on Aug. 17, 1937. Known to family, friends, customers and colleagues as a great and accomplished storyteller, his best story was, hands-down, his own.
Lewy was the seventh of 12 children, born on an Iowa farm. He survived rheumatic fever and went on to develop a passionate love of horses and riding (and BB gun fights on horseback with his two brothers). He moved to California at 18, settling in Hollywood, where he became an active member of Hollywood Presbyterian Church. There he met Louis Zamperini, a World War II vet who would become his lifelong friend and mentor. He attended school to learn cloth-pattern making, but his true passions were elsewhere: weekends teaching migrant farm workers’ children to read and write in the Central Valley (part of the Church ministry) and odd jobs helping other church members with landscaping and tree pruning — the sort of outdoor work he loved.
Lewy met and married Edris (Eadie) Hall, founded Hollywood Tree Service and started a family. Both the business and the family grew quickly. He rapidly became one of the most prominent tree surgeons and arborists in Los Angeles. He helped the LA Fire Department plan their first fire clearance code. He advised major real estate developments (including the Mt. Olympus community in Hollywood) to the concept of choosing trees for not just beauty, but for fire prevention and environmental health. He installed the first 60 foot Christmas tree on Hollywood Blvd. where it has become a seasonal tradition. He taught his skills and passed his wisdom on to others who would, in turn, become leaders in tree conservation and care.
As a husband, father, neighbor and community inspiration, Lewy was equally exceptional. He had two daughters, Tonia and Michelle, and a son, Buck. He became a Boy Scout leader and he had a second son, Alec. He raised, rode and trained his beloved horses. It was not unknown for him to stage an impromptu round-up from horseback, lassoing (gently) his whooping children. Residents of Burbank and the Hollywood Hills would see him on one of his three favorite stallions (Scirocco, Vagi and Blackie) without saddle or bridle, blazing down the trails in complete command, through trust and confidence alone. He inspired that same trust in people, helping and inspiring not through handouts, but through teaching the values he had learned and practiced and by giving of himself.
In 1998 Lewy had a major stroke while driving his car, but managed to stop safely, directly in front of a fire station. The immediate care (and a very close hospital) saved his life. After 41 years high in the trees above Los Angeles, he retired and moved to Rescue, Calif. He spent the last 14 years travelling amongst his grandchildren — teaching them to walk and talk, to be independent and to live wisely, as he did.
Lewy is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and 11 brothers and sisters. He loved his family passionately, and they returned that love just as passionately. He died at peace, knowing that one day they would all be together once again.