Caring, always smiling, nice to those he helped, those are just a few of the things that come to the mind whenever someone thinks about the Williamsburg-based businessman Oral Lewis, who passed away this Monday at Baptist Health Corbin. He was 64 years old.
“Once again we’ve lost someone that meant so much and has done so much for our community,” said Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison, who noted the former Brashear’s Market owner’s work ethic.
“I never saw Oral that he wasn’t working extremely hard for whoever it was that had him cater their event, and when I say working, I mean at a pace most people wouldn’t even try to do,” added Harrison.
After converting part of Brashear’s Market into a buffet-style restaurant serving crowd favorites like chicken casserole, meat loaf, pork chops and more, Lewis’ place of business quickly became a gathering place for his neighbors throughout the community. And even while hosting lunches and community dinners at his Brashear’s, Lewis also catered several events throughout the Williamsburg and Whitley County communities.
“Oral Lewis was a hardworking, gentle, businessman and servant of this community who loved this area and its people,” said Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White, Jr. “He will be sorely missed.”
Through his hard work, willingness to help anyone who asked and attention to detail, it wasn’t long before everyone wanted Lewis catering their events. He quickly became the city’s go-to catering guy, his Darlin’ Dogs (cut-up, bacon-wrapped hotdogs baked in brown sugar and syrup) quickly became a City Hall favorite, and Lewis even had his own key to the Mary Jeffries Center. City officials say that because he catered so many events taking place at the community center, it just made sense for Lewis to have his own key.
Lewis’ reach was far and wide as he impacted several people. After news of his passing reached social media platforms earlier this week, hundreds flocked to the comments sections to offer their love, support and prayers to Lewis’ loved ones and family.
Williamsburg City Council member Patty Faulkner worked together with Lewis in planning several community and personal events over the years. She says that she and Lewis grew close as friends during that time, and that Lewis always made sure things were perfect for whoever he was working for.
“Oral always took pride in ensuring everything was ‘just perfect’ for those who required his help,” Faulkner wrote via an email in response to The Times-Tribune. “What I don't think people realized was just how much behind the scenes work Oral did every day,” she added, noting how most mornings, especially during the holiday season, Lewis would arrive at his store around 4:30 a.m. and that he wouldn’t leave until late that night.
“The amount of food preparation, dishes and glasses that had to be washed, silver polished and the other manual and physical work that is required to make an event happen is mind boggling,” Faulkner added. “But Oral was able to pull it off with grace. He always wanted to add something special to any event he did.”
Faulkner said that for those who had the honor of knowing Lewis or attending an event he catered will most likely remember that the food he served was always presented on crystal bowls and platters. She said Lewis always polished silver serving pieces when catering and that linen table cloths and napkins were always a requirement.
“He wanted every event, regardless of the number in attendance, to have a touch of elegance to it,” Faulkner continued. “He took pride in this and I will always remember his smile when everything was set up, and he had a moment to survey his work. His heart was big and he loved the City of Williamsburg and helping those who required his talents. I don't believe I had ever heard him tell someone ‘no’ that he couldn't do something when asked. I will miss my friend.”
Funeral service will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 7, at Ellison Funeral Home with the Rev. Roy Sutton officiating. Visitation will be 4 p.m. until the funeral hour Thursday at Ellison Funeral Home Chapel.
“He was amazing—always smiling, and super nice to everyone,” Harrison later added in reference to Lewis. “I know times that he was working on an event, would get a call from someone else with short notice, and he’d take that job on as well and make it a success! We will ALL miss Oral.”