Cover photo for Arlene  Mae Walker Willis-Lewis's Obituary
Arlene  Mae Walker Willis-Lewis Profile Photo
1937 Arlene 2022

Arlene Mae Walker Willis-Lewis

March 16, 1937 — December 4, 2022

Arlene Mae Walker Willis Lewis

March 16, 1937 – December 4, 2022


Arlene Mae Walker Willis Lewis was born, alongside her identical twin, Darlene, on March 16,

1937, in Taft (CA). Along with their older sister, Mary, the girls eventually moved to San

Bernardino where they lived, and all three graduated from San Bernardino High School. The

twins were popular cheerleaders in high school and performed their famous “Red Birds” cheer

over the years in the presence of family and even at their daughter’s high school pep rally in

1980. All three sisters were beautiful, intelligent, and dynamic women who started life with little

to nothing and rose to realize exceptional lives.


Later, Arlene married Dr. Jim Willis, and raised their three children: Jimmy, Marty and Julie in

Rialto (CA). Arlene began her extraordinary career in public affairs through her work with a

young California State Assemblyman, Jerry Lewis, of San Bernardino. Arlene ran Jerry Lewis’

office during most of his service in the California State Legislature (1969-1978) and served as

his chief of staff during his 34 years (1979 – 2013) representing the Inland Empire and High

Desert in the U.S. Congress. Arlene and Jerry had been friends in high school and reestablished

a friendship through their common interest in public service that eventually led to romance and

later a 35-year marriage. They were married in Redlands in June 1986.


Through their partnership, they secured significant federal funding benefiting many entities

throughout the Inland Empire and Southern California. This included funding to address

wildland fire in the San Bernardino National Forest, funds to establish the Lewis Center for

Educational Research in Apple Valley, and the establishment of groundbreaking cancer

treatment technology through the Proton Therapy Treatment and Research Center at Loma Linda

University. In recognition of her service, Arlene was the recipient of the Shirley N. Pettis Award

by the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation for her commitment and efforts

on behalf of Loma Linda University.


Arlene was a tour de force on Capitol Hill, building, mentoring, and sustaining for more than 30

years a team of young professionals in the Office of Congressman Lewis dedicated to bipartisan

public service. She created a positive work environment for the Lewis office staff that

encouraged and rewarded initiative. More importantly, Arlene was the gracious guiding light

who inspired others to reach their potential and realize their talents to the fullest. Because of the

work environment Arlene and Jerry Lewis fostered, the Lewis congressional staff became an

extended and close-knit Lewis family that endures to this day.


Constituents in California often remarked that having Arlene serving side-by-side with Jerry in

Washington, DC was like having two Members of Congress. Those on Capitol Hill – elected

Members of Congress and their staff— recognized and appreciated Arlene and Jerry for their

kindness, generosity towards others, and for working together across party lines for the greater

good of their constituents and the American public.


Arlene and Jerry Lewis retired from public service in 2013 and returned to their home in the

Inland Empire where they enjoyed time with their dog (Bruin) and, following Bruin’s passing,

their dog (Sugar), walking daily, and spending time with family and friends.

Arlene’s extraordinary generosity and commitment to serving others extended well into her 85th

year. As she celebrated her 85th birthday last March, Arlene directed funds to the Making Hope

Happen Foundation to establish an endowment scholarship for graduating students committed to

future careers in public service from her alma mater, San Bernardino High School.

In lieu of flowers, Arlene’s family requests that family and friends consider honoring her

memory and legacy of pursuing bipartisanship and civility in our public policy discourse by

sending a contribution to:


UCLA Foundation

“The Jerry Lewis True Bruin Values Fund”

Attn: Treasury Management

10889 Wilshire Blvd

10th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1603

Contributions can also be made at: https://giving.ucla.edu/campaign/Donate.aspx?Fund=16570c

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Arlene Mae Walker Willis-Lewis, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, December 19, 2022

9:00 - 10:00 am (Pacific time)

Emmerson-Bartlett Memorial Chapel - Redlands

703 Brookside Avenue, Redlands, CA 92373

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Monday, December 19, 2022

Starts at 10:00 am (Pacific time)

Emmerson-Bartlett Memorial Chapel - Redlands

703 Brookside Avenue, Redlands, CA 92373

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Graveside

Monday, December 19, 2022

Starts at 11:15 am (Pacific time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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