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Dave and Bunny Lewers

Driving into Dave Lewers Auto Glass, I'm a bit anxious. His reputation for outspokenness is well known and I don't know what to anticipate. Furthermore, he sounded somewhat abrupt and cautious on the phone. I find Dave in the shop working on an old Alfa Romeo. We shake hands and join Bunny in the back office which is decorated with photos of large animals, dead and alive.

I sit down near a gigantic wild boar head from which hangs Dave's one and only necktie. Inquiring about the wild animal and livestock decor, I learn that Dave is President of the Sonoma County Fair this year and a director of the Future Farmers Fair. Bunny is a member of the Sonoma-Marin Cattlewomen's Association and a former FFA Sweetheart.

It takes a few minutes to warm up, but soon two very engaging, straightforward and entertaining personalities emerge. I sense a special chemistry--a sympathetic dynamic of telling a story together--so fast paced that all I can squeeze in is a "slow down, stop, please spell that name!" Bunny keeps the phone book handy for reference, checking the spelling of the old Italian names.

I begin by asking Dave to talk about the things that shaped his opinions. With this, Bunny breaks into a howl, asking, "How did you form those ideas, Davy?"

"My dad told me to be a goat, not a sheep, and make my own trail," answers Dave. "I was the oldest of three boys and had to set an example. The difference between me and most people is that I'm willing to die for what I believe in. I'm willing to stand up and be counted.

"My parents, Jerry and Katy Lewers, moved here from Oregon in May 1954 when I was five months old. In 1957 they bought a house at the corner of Lupine Road and Terrace Blvd. in Solar Terrace. The first subdivision in Healdsburg. Charlie Aggi lived across the road on top of a hill where Garrett's is now. We used to pick up fallen apples in his orchards and he'd chase us around in his truck yelling to get off the property.

"There were eight bars around the Plaza when I was in high school," Dave continues. "What is now the 7-11 was Shorty's Bar. We kids used to go there and watch the loggers get drunk and fight in the parking lot. In high school I got caught drinking beer in the Rite Aide parking lot which was then Safeway."

"It was the kids' meeting spot back then," Bunny clarifies. "The cops were always lurking around. If you were caught with beer you had to stand out on Healdsburg Avenue and pour the beer out while your friends drove by honking and laughing."

"And", Dave adds, "Police Chief Lou Bertoli told the officer who caught me, 'Don't bring him in, take him home and his dad will deal with the situation'. You didn't get away with anything. You were everybody's kid back then. When I was in high school, Bob Malone was the Superintendent of Schools. I could go talk to him and ask questions on any given day. When Lou Bertoli was police chief, he ate lunch at the Salami Tree Deli and you could go sit down with him whenever you wanted. John Uboldi, my woodshop teacher, and R. Michael Berry were teachers that really made us think."

"Can I tell a story on you, Dave?" Bunny asks, beginning the tale without any hesitation. "There was a very narrow alley where cars parked between Lamplighter Pizza and the bowling alley downtown. Dave had this truck and he'd 'spin a brodie' all the way down that alley without ever hitting a car."

"When I came out at the other end," Dave continues, "the truck spun around landing face to face with Officer Carlos Basurto. He just said, 'I don't care where you go, just get outta town and don't come back tonight!'"

"No, there weren't many secrets around this town!" Bunny adds.

"The Healdsburg Machine Works had three owners at that time--Ferrari, Scalione (Bunny checks the spelling here) and Rafanelli," Dave tells me. "A-b-e-l-e Ferrari, credited with working on the first car that ever drove through Healdsburg, was in his 90's when I was in high school. I worked for his grandson, Eddie Demostene (phone book again). Abele was a cranky and wealthy old man..."

"And stiff. Don't forget stiff," Bunny interjects, adding, "The Italians always used the term 'the working man': 'I gotta pick up the working man'... 'I gotta get the working man a coke'... 'Can I borrow your working man tomorrow?'"

"And Ferrari borrowed me," says Dave. "His broom was worn and it wouldn't sweep at all if you pushed it. We got in a big argument because it only made sense for me to pull it instead. But he said, 'God damn you, you 'basket' s.o.b. It's a pusha broom! Pusha, pusha!' I reasoned that it was worn out. And he replied, 'You pusha the broom or I push you three feet under the cement!' No one could argue with Ferrari and he respected me for that.

"Common sense should override everything," he continues. "Now when I see something I don't believe in, I go to the City Council meetings and talk. For example, if the law says your fence can only be four feet high, how do you keep your kids from climbing over it? How do you keep your dog in? I keep my eyes open and pay attention. Most people don't have the time to pay attention because Mom and Dad are both working to own a house in Healdsburg."

"We used to have time to do things by hand, Bunny agrees. "I grew up on a grape and prune ranch on Old Redwood Highway. My great, great-grandmother Passarino, born in Italy, lived in 'Little Italy' down by the A&W stand. My great-grandmother Degrazia was born here, followed by my grandma, Vera "Nonie" Ponzo, and my dad, Jim "Mick" Ponzo. Louie Foppiano was our next door neighbor and his son, Rod, was my best friend."

"So how did you and Dave get together?" I wonder.

"My cousin Patty dated Dave. We met on a double date in 1972 when Dave was just out of high school and I was a sophomore. So I guess he's my cousin's leftover!" Bunny laughs.

"Our friends took bets we wouldn't last six months," Dave adds, "but it's been 26 years and we have two daughters: Suzie, 21, works in Rohnert Park, and Sarah, almost 25, is a published journalism major at Humboldt State.

"We live on 230 acres off Kelly Road, 45 minutes out in the country. I got this stigma that I'm some anti-environmentalist, but we recycle all the grape stakes and we made a water tank for the animals when we robbed them from their water source by fencing off the spring. I think people should be able to do what they want on their own property within the limits of the law. It cost me $8000 to get a logging plan and permit for my own property and I only took 40% of the timber and then replanted. I saved the receipt for those baby trees to prove that their ours so my girls wouldn't need another permit someday.

"And I have this stigma that I'm so mean. I carry a gun in my pickup because of coyotes on the ranch that kill my livestock. Just the other day, a CHP officer saw my truck door open and said, 'What is that gun doing in there? You can't carry a gun in your truck!' And I explained, 'Yes, I can. It's the law.'"

Dave then pauses, asking me: "Do you think I'm mean?"

When I tell him that before we met I thought he might be scary, he smiles, saying, "Maybe it's my imagination, but I think a lot of people think that. But I'm just a normal guy doing what I think is right everyday."

And Dave is very clear about his stand on a number of local issues:

"No Smoking" ordinance: "It's against the law for me to have a cigarette in my own shop when no one's here! It passed unopposed because no one had time to pay attention."

Guns: "They banned gun shows at the County Fair and I was the only dissenting vote. It cost us $25,000 in lost revenue and I still believe it to be unconstitutional."

Noise ordinance: "Lots of people don't even know this is happening. They should exempt all existing businesses. How can you come in on the fifth inning of a baseball game and change the rules?"

"Dave's been called a 'loose cannon', Bunny tells me. "Dave, how many times have people said to you, 'You're not at all like I heard... You're really a nice guy'".

"My dad was a timberfeller," Dave responds. "I'd go to work with him in the summer. He used to say, 'You get to see the sun rise every morning and have a picnic every day!' I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors. It's one of the best schools there is. Life is not that difficult. Ninety percent is just showing up. We should enjoy life right now 'cause these are the good old days."


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