Gene Paxton Lewis, 78, husband of Charlotte Daniels Lewis, passed away in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on February 12, 2014. Born on August 23, 1935, in Old Glory, Texas, he was the son of the late Virgil and Sarah Lillian Paxton Lewis.
He is survived by three children, Sarah Lewis of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Lisa Carlsten (Lance) of Lawrence, Kansas, and Barry Lewis of Ft. Collins, Colorado; three grandchildren, Jason and Justin Carlsten and Sam Lewis; five great-grandsons; a sister, Betty Walker; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Gregory Gerhard; three nephews, Steven and Grant Gerhard and Greg Thorn; two nieces, Paula Gunn and Charla Scarborough; one great-nephew; and several great-nieces.
Gene was a gentle man who loved his life with his family and friends. He was a calm, loving husband and father who was a rock of support for his wife and children. His passions were family, photography, golf, and UK basketball. Although his stature and infectious smile were a reflection of his Texas roots, Gene was also a Kentuckian by heart and choice.
A graduate of Hardin Simmons University, Baylor University College of Dentistry, and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Gene devoted his entire career to improving access to primary and oral health care for those with the most need. After receiving his Doctor in Dental Surgery, he joined the United States Public Health Service in Oklahoma, serving as Chief of the Hospital Dental Service. He also was a Service Unit Dental Director for the Indian Health Service in Shiprock, New Mexico. He worked for many years in Region IV of the U.S. Public Health Service.
He worked with Kentucky and other Southeastern states to develop programs that are the basis of the dental outreach and oral health programs in the region, including new health professions colleges, new community health centers and National Health Service Corps initiatives. His career with the U.S. Public Health Service spanned 23 years, holding several director positions in Region IV, including director of Preventive Health Services and director of Division of Health Care Systems, as well as the Principal Regional Dental Consultant.
His work with the U.S. Public Health Service culminated in a special assignment as the executive assistant to Kentucky Commissioner, Department of Health Services, in the 1980s; his leadership lead to the funding and creation of the first mobile dental facility, numerous partnerships with private and public entities to provide oral health services to school children, particularly outreach services to Appalachia.
He worked for the UK College of Dentistry in two stints: first as chairman of the Department of Community Dentistry and interim dean in the 1970s, returning in 1988 to head the Program of Public and Professional Services at the UK College of Dentistry where he continued to develop programs to improve the lives of citizens of the Commonwealth. His visionary leadership led to the creation of the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition, the first in the nation focused on the oral health needs of the public.
Gene was a diplomat and president of the American Board of Dental Public Health, served as president of the American Association of Public Health Dentists, served on the Governing Council of the American Public Health Association and was a University of Kentucky Fellow. He received awards from the American Dental Association and the Kentucky Dental Association, as well as the career recognition award from the Blue Grass Dental Society. In 2005 he was inducted into the UK Public Health Hall of Fame.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at First United Methodist Church of Frankfort, 211 Washington St., on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 1 p.m., with calling hours beginning at noon. Burial will be in Union Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, at a later date. Honorary pallbearers will be his nephews and grandsons.
Contributions in Gene’s memory can be made to a fellowship being established in his memory. Checks can be made out to: The University of Kentucky Center for Oral Health Research, with earmarks listed as ‘Public Health – Lewis,’ and can be mailed to: UK Center for Health Research, College of Dentistry, AB Chandler Medical Center, University of Kentucky, Medical Plaza Drive, Lexington, KY 40536.
Rogers Funeral Home is in care of arrangements. Online condolences can be made at www.rogersfrankfort.com.