On an August afternoon in 2021 my Good Wife and I were pulling into our driveway when we saw a truck and trailer speeding out of the lane at the extremity of our valley field. That year was our turn for corn in the fields, but despite the tall corn, we could see the truck quite clearly.
I quickly took a picture of the truck with her phone, and I moved equally quickly to drive over to see what the driver was doing. The truck exited the field, turned onto the road and sped away at breakneck speed as I approached. I drove down into the lane and found that the driver and his passenger had dumped into our woods two enormous base logs from a massive oak tree that freshly had been timbered.
We posted our pictures on the internet, and immediately we received two messages identifying the truck. We notified the Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office, and within minutes a deputy arrived at our home. He introduced himself and gave us his card. His name was Keith Lewis and for the next few days he was a steady presence in our lives.
From the moment of his arrival, his professionalism and profound understanding of the law were readily apparent, but even more significantly, we realized at once that he wanted a just and proper solution to the problem. He explained the nature of the violation and what our options were in pursuing retribution. He did not suggest a course of action, leaving the matter for us to decide how to go forward, that is, whether to pursue prosecution or not.
For his part, Keith proceeded to contact the owner of the truck, who told him that he had not known what his employees had done and offered to make amends by removing the deposited debris from our woods. Keith meticulously kept us informed at every step along the way. As his investigation continued to unfold, we learned that the perpetrator was 19, and had no prior arrest record. His companion in the truck was 21, also without a record.
We decided not to press charges provided that the material would be removed, and that the area would be restored to its former condition. After we informed Keith of our decision, he commented that he was pleased, as he hoped the experience of this “brush with the law” would teach a lesson, and that the young men would be law-abiding in the future.
From our conversations, we could see the deep level of compassion Keith had for making things right for the long course, as well as for finding a solution for the immediate problem. He was steadfast in his application of the law, with which he was thoroughly familiar, and he truly saw the “big picture” as to what would be in the best interests of the community as a whole.
Later I learned that Keith had been honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for his diligent service in working to keep drunk drivers off the roads of our county. When I related our experience with Keith to others, to a person, each told us how fortunate we had been to have worked with such a fine officer.
Last Sunday evening, Keith died unexpectedly, leaving his colleagues in the Sheriff’s Office and countless citizens of Northumberland County and the lower Northern Neck deeply saddened at the passing of this truly noble gentleman, a great credit to his profession.
Deputy Keith Lewis, R.I.P.