by Truth Encounter Ministries


The Unselfish Life: Tribute to Dennie Lewis, Fire Chief

I just attended the funeral of a dear friend in Kansas City. He was my brother-in-law, a dedicated husband, a faithful Christian and a fireman… specifically, a fire chief.

It wasn’t too long ago that this robust outdoorsman was diagnosed with ALS, a horrible disease that relentlessly destroys the body’s motor functions. It attacked his muscles until he was confined to a motorized wheelchair, maneuvered with the little mobility he had left in his right hand. He needed a hoist to get him from his chair to bed at night.

Yet, through all of this, he didn’t complain.

He was excited and looking forward to being with the Lord, but he was never focused on himself. Instead, he was always interested in the well being of others.

A woman attending the funeral came because Dennie had once saved her life… carrying her out of a burning building. What was remarkable about this was that no one in the family had ever heard the story.

Dennie never told it.

I think if I had saved someone’s life, I would probably find a way to bring it up in conversations. I would want people to know that I had been a hero, courageously charging into an inferno, risking my life, searching for the desperate, and valiantly fighting my way out carrying a helpless woman from sure death to fresh air and the breath of life.

I would probably tell people all about it. Over and over again.

But not Dennie.

He talked occasionally about the baby that he failed to save, but not the ones he did.

You see, from his perspective, life wasn’t about him. It was always about the other person.

Dennie and I married sisters and they both love to shop in the kind of stores that have the most detailed, intricate, artsy, craftsy doohickeys. You know the places I’m talking about. There are thousands of little trinkets in these stores… maybe hundreds of thousands or millions.

These are places that I can walk into and be done in less than a minute. If I stay in them any longer I get some kind of a sensory overload. My heart begins to race, my breathing gets shallow, and my vision begins to tunnel. It’s akin to rabid claustrophobia or morbid water torture.

I remember the first time the four of us were out together and we happened upon one of these horror chambers. The girls went inside and within a minute Dennie and I were sitting outside on the benches that every proprietor of these stores provides for husbands. I said something like “I hate these places.” And then I looked at Dennie and he had one of the biggest smiles on his face. He said,

“Oh, I love them!”

“You do?”

“Sure, because Elaine loves them and I really enjoy seeing her happy.”

That’s Dennie.

Happy making other people happy. Happy taking them to a trinket store or happy saving their life from a burning house.

Just another day living life right.

No big deal.

Dennie and I sat outside of doodad shops from the Caribbean to Alaska and he was always consistent, always thinking of Elaine, always thinking of the other person.

There were five fire engines outside the funeral home. Inside, a fireman guarded Dennie’s remains. A host of firemen were present, paying their respects to a highly respected man. They read the fireman’s creed and then rang the bell for the last time.

Well done good and faithful servant.

See you soon.





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  • Kathy Eldridge

    Kathy Eldridge

    We are so sorry for your family's loss of a wonderful man
  • Marc Fey

    Marc Fey

    What a legacy Dennie has left to his family and to everyone watching his life. In a world where social media tempts us to try to shape (and manipulate) the image others see about who we are, Del, your tribute of Dennie's beautifully lived life inspires me to stay focused on the one thing that matters more than anything--genuine, faithful, self-sacrificing love. Thank you for sharing your brother-in-law's story, and bringing into focus for me today what matters.
  • Beth Sterne

    Beth Sterne

    Del, our prayers for you and your family. So sorry to learn of Dennie's passing and ALS struggles. He and Elaine came to visit years ago and he spent a long, patient time telling our son and a buddy or two what it's like to be a fireman. They were mesmerized. He enjoyed the kids and everybody ended with big grins enjoying Dennie. This is tribute says Dennie lived "He must increase, but I must decrease" and it encourages me to put others first. Thank you.
  • Michele Wilson

    Michele Wilson

    That is a soul stirring tribute, Del. One that causes me to pause and want to model his unselfish ways. Thank you for sharing Dennie's story. He is causing love to grow even in death...a beautiful legacy.
  • Jim Budzynski

    Jim Budzynski

    Well done indeed Dennis. That was a great tribute Del. Sounds like he was a great guy.
  • Chris Frase

    Chris Frase

    What a legacy, what an encouragement... what lessons for those of us left behind...
  • Hector Padron

    Hector Padron

    My condolences on your loss, Del. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to a godly man.
  • Steve Krigbaum

    Steve Krigbaum

    Well Done Chief. You have left a legacy of what quiet selfless heroism looks like. May there be many who aspire to fill your boots because of your example and Del's sharing the story.




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