|We hope you enjoy these updates from the Friends of the Round Valley Public Library!
October 9, 2013, Issue #6 Ed TePas, editor
Lew Chichester, Round Valley's Renaissance Man
We have many outstanding people in the Friends of Round Valley. I count Lew as very special. Lew has been living in Covelo since 1972 with a ten year break on the coast in Mendocino. From the beginning of the new library project he has been our man on the site. Estok Menton, our contractor, made an exception and put Lew on his crew while Lew acted as liaison for the Friends. I call him "Renaissance Man" because he's smart, creative, funny and speaks eloquently. If you know him you would agree. e.t.
The first time I heard Lew speak at a Friends’ meeting seven years ago I thought: Who is this carpenter who speaks like a U.S. Senator? After seven years he continues to impress. Lew is an important person in the development of our new library and founder of our radio station KYBU. Shortly after he returned from getting his daughter and his wife Ginny’s two sons through Mendocino High School, Betsy Brown recruited him to be the liaison person between the Friends and Estok Menton, our contractor. I would like to tell you how Lew came to this point in his life.
Lew was born in Macon, Georgia in 1951 as the oldest of four children born over a ten year spread. His father was a pharmacist who managed his own pharmacy. Dad, the pharmacist, was concerned about all the drugs he was selling to deal with emotional and spiritual problems his patients were suffering from. He thought he could do more good by becoming a spiritual pastor. With this in mind he moved the family to Berkeley from 1958 to 1961 while he went to divinity school and became an Episcopal Church minister. Then it was back to Georgia for ten year old Lew to live in small Cedartown, a cotton mill town in NW Georgia about ten miles from the Alabama border.
This honeymoon was to last only about five years and the family agreed that it was time to get out of Georgia and back to Berkeley. Lew’s dad got a PhD in education and social science while Lew was now attending El Cerrito HS creating a stir, I’m guessing here, as a member of the student government. Now that all four kids were in school mom went and got herself a teaching credential from Cal State Hayward and taught kg and first grade in an all black school in West Oakland.
One of Lew’s favorite ways to enjoy life is playing music and in high school he played trumpet in the band and guitar for fun on his own. If you heard Lew play and sing at Ollie Numelin’s Beatles’ Night you know he really can rock the room.
Now it’s 1969 and young Lew is looking for a college that can teach him how to survive in a "deinstitutionalized" life. Not an easy search without Google. He thought he found the answer in Goddard College in Vermont. Now this is a kid who grew up in Georgia and the East Bay used to living in sneakers and light sweaters. One year of snow and ice in Vermont had Lew sliding back to sunny California. He tries a year at College of the Redwoods in Eureka and then moves over to Humboldt State in Arcata.
Maybe he was just searching for something but somehow Lew hitchhiked to our Round Valley in 1972 when he became of age (21) and liked the place so much he decided to quit the college idea and settle down here. I asked Lew how he survived in the beginning. His answer: live on lack of expense. That means about $25 to $40/month with no car. You might also try roasted squirrel. Tell that to your sixteen-year-old who wants to buy a car without thinking about the costs. It took Lew four years and hundreds of miles of walking before he bought his first car. During this time he managed a food coop here. In 1975 the Garden Project of Alan Chadwick drew a lot of young people to Round Valley.
In 1980 Lew joined Jim Lambert and Peter Richardson to form Rainbow Construction. Lew says, “We built millions of dollars worth of buildings over the years all over the place.” During this time Lew was married and had a daughter who is now 34 and lives in San Francisco. Lew divorced after five years. He has been married to Ginny for thirty years. She brought her two sons to the marriage. Ginny plays keyboard and sings in Lew’s band.
From 1992 to 2004 Ginny and Lew took their three kids to Mendocino to attend Mendocino High School. It was soon after Lew and Ginny returned to Round Valley that he got involved in the Library project in 2006. The radio station might not have happened without the generosity of Tom Yates and Kate Hayes of KOZT in Fort Bragg who gave Lew the construction permit they had which was about to expire before they could use it. That permit was worth thousands of dollars and got KYBU off the ground.
Lew works just enough to buy a steady supply of Corona beer because Ginny likes it too. His favorite is Anchor Steam. He reads a lot. His favorite reading is history especially William Shirer and the Nazi era.
Finally, he is easy to spot around Round Valley with his signature pony tail.