David Bowdich
Deputy Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Memorial Service for Electronics Technician William “Homer” Lewis
Fredericksburg, Virginia
April 9, 2019

Remembering Electronics Technician William “Homer” Lewis: A Life of Dedication, Humility, and a Drive for Service

Remarks prepared for delivery.

It’s an honor to be here today to remember Homer Lewis.

I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know Homer, but in talking to the people who did know him, one thing kept coming up, over and over.

His smile. Everyone knew Homer for his smile. I see people nodding and smiling right now—because you know what I’m talking about.

He had a smile as bright as the sun and as wide as the Mississippi River. He didn’t smile once in a while, or just with friends or family. He had a smile for everyone he met. Everyone he passed on the street and in the hallway.

He was smiling all day long. He didn’t have fewer worries than the rest of us. He wasn’t any less stressed out. But if he was worried, or stressed out, you never would have known it. Because of that smile.

On his obituary tribute wall online, every single post referenced Homer’s smile, in comment after comment. One colleague from Quantico wrote that he never even knew Homer’s name, but that Homer had been smiling at him and saying hello for years. And every single person talked about how much they were going to miss seeing that smile. How much they were going to miss Homer’s optimism, his positive attitude, and his friendly demeanor.

Homer had a willingness to drop everything and help you—anytime, anywhere. He was always checking in on others, always ready to be there for someone in need. His friends and colleagues joke that Homer always had to have the last word—or the last text, as the case may be. They’d joke with him to keep him going, egging him on. They say Homer was talking and joking and smiling from the time he hopped out of bed till the minute his head hit the pillow.

But Homer’s biggest smile was always for his daughter, Sarah. And his favorite thing to talk about was how wonderful Sarah is—how proud he was of her, how smart she was, how kind she was to others. His friend Ray said that Homer would have moved heaven and earth for Sarah. That she was his greatest source of joy.

Many of you here today know Sarah—you’ve known her since she was a baby. You’ve watched her grow up. Homer used to bring her to the ET shop after school, until he was done with work. And everyone agrees that Sarah’s “a chip off the old block,” as they say. Sarah, you have your dad’s smile, his intelligence, and his warmth, and that’s a wonderful legacy to share with your father.

That kind of optimism, that selflessness, that positive energy—it’s infectious. It makes everyone feel better and brighter. It makes you believe that, one way or another, everything is going to be okay.

After the 9/11 attacks, he put that positive energy into action. Homer worked on the night shift at the Pentagon for several weeks, setting up and maintaining radio communications. He was instrumental in our recovery efforts, keeping team members safe inside the Pentagon and in other locations where we were conducting evidence review.

Like the rest of the FBI, Homer had one purpose: to make sure something like that never, ever happened again. And that sense of resolve must have carried Homer through the difficult days and weeks that followed, as we pieced together what happened.

That same sense of resolve must have carried Homer through the darkest days of his illness. That resolve, that positive energy, and that smile. Homer never showed any sort of self-pity. He never had a “woe is me” attitude about his illness. He just wanted to talk about how you were doing. What was new in your life. What you needed. And how he could help.

To be able to put others before yourself—to be able to keep smiling, to keep hoping for the best, and to keep your faith in the Lord when you’re facing the very worst life has to offer, when you’re facing the kind of challenge that would make most of us crumble—that is truly something.

It’s admirable.

It’s enviable.

And it’s all too rare.

But by all accounts, that was Homer.

We’re only now beginning to understand—and to witness—the long-term effects of our work after 9/11 and the full extent of the sacrifices that our first responders made. We’ve lost far too many members of the FBI family due to 9/11-related illnesses. And we’re by no means alone. Our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, firefighting, and first response have also suffered devastating losses—and we all fear there are more to come.

So as we sit here today, we should grieve for—and remember—these selfless men and women, like Homer. And we should take inspiration from their example and from what they gave to all of us.

* * *

In the FBI, we talk about dedication. Humility. And a drive for service.

Homer embodied each of those qualities.

He knew how important his work was. He was dedicated to the FBI family. He was dedicated to the FBI mission—he was dedicated to keeping people safe.

He was humble. He didn’t make it all about him. He never took more than he gave. No matter the assignment, no matter the hour, he just smiled and said, “Okay, I’m on it.”

He had that drive for service that is the hallmark of the FBI. He took care of the people he worked with—his FBI family—bringing his trademark optimism to everyone he encountered. And he always, always remembered who he was doing the work for—the American people.

Sarah, we’re so sorry for your loss. Homer was part of our FBI family for more than 28 years. And he will always be part of our FBI family. Losing a parent is difficult at any age. But losing a parent when you’re young is something no one should have to live through alone. So we stand beside you in your grief, and we stand ready to help you with whatever you need. Because you’re part of our FBI family, too.

We will remember Homer for who he was and what he stood for. We’ll remember his dedication, his humility, and his drive for service. And yes, we’ll always, always remember that smile.

Thank you for having me here today to honor Homer on behalf of his FBI family.