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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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."