Beloved Squamish Elder hurt in swimming accident | Squamish Chief

Beloved Squamish Elder hurt in swimming accident

Online campaign launched to support 'Bebe' Lewis and help his close-knit family be near him

Often a source of support for others, Squamish's "Bebe" Lewis could now use the community's help.

Elder Allen Lewis junior, better known by most as Bebe,  is a well-known figure around town and has been for decades.

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Currently, 68-year-old Lewis is lying in a Vancouver hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator after a serious accident while he was swimming on Salt Spring Island on July 13.

"He's had significant spinal cord damage," Lewis' daughter Angie August told The Squamish Chief.

"He'd been in the lake throughout the day and they were about to eat so he was just taking one last dive in the lake before they headed out."

After being stabilized in hospital in Victoria on Monday, he was transferred to Vancouver on July 14. There, he had surgery Saturday to put a rod in to  secure his skull to his spine.

He has breathing and feeding tubes to keep him going, she added.

He is alert when he is awake, however, she said.

Eventually, he will be transferred to a longer-term facility.

"He won't be able to use his arms and his legs," August said of her father's prognosis.

The family has launched a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe called "Elder Bebe Lewis Medical & Family Support" to help provide support that medical insurance won't cover and to allow his large and close family to be by his side as much as possible.

While at times his condition has seemed quite dire, August said you can never count her dad out.

After the accident, a doctor told the family he might not make it, but he rallied.

"You don't know my dad," August said. "He is not like the rocking chair retiree. He is everywhere, all the time.... don't underestimate my dad. He is not your typical person."

Lewis, a former logger and the second oldest of 15, is always on the go.

"I go to his house and he is learning to play the guitar and he's learning how to do a clam-digging stick in the style of our family from Kuper Island."

He is always quick to lend a hand to others.

When his six kids were young, he was their soccer and lacrosse coach, August added.

When he travels, he makes Facebook Live videos, which helps his family keep up with him.

Out at his home in the Squamish Valley, there are often strangers Lewis has befriended and invited in, August said.

Once, August pulled up to Lewis' house and a man she didn't recognize was chopping wood.

It turned out to be a man from France. He had been travelling in Alberta and ran into a friend of Lewis' who told him to head to Vancouver and "find Bebe."

The man did.

"[Dad] knows so many people from so many places," August said. "People are just drawn to him."

Lewis' sister, Eileen Jacobs calls him a "Cheekye Warrior."

She says he got the name Bebe — baby in French — from his grandmother when he was a boy.

The name stuck.

Though due to COVID-19, he can only have one visitor at the hospital a day, Lewis' large family dropped everything to be close by and are praying for him, said Jacobs, who launched the online campaign for her brother.

One of his most well-known visual characteristics is that he almost always has his shirts unbuttoned, even at August's wedding, she said, with a laugh.

"My own assumption is that he runs hot," she added.

"He did his buttons up for the ceremony, but as soon as the ceremony was over, his shirt was open. In the wedding pictures, his shirt is open and he is looking to the sky with his big smile and his shirt open. And I am like, 'Oh, Dad!'"

Go here to donate to the online campaign.

*Please note, this story has been corrected since it was first posted to clarify the timeline of when and where surgery was done.

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