Jerry Bernell Lewis peacefully passed away at his home in St. George, Utah on December 15, 2022.
He was born August 6, 1933, in Spanish Fork, Utah, to Harold Bernell and Elva Lewis, the oldest of four children. When he was about one year old, his father got a job teaching and coaching at Kanab High School in Kanab, Utah. The family moved to Kanab that summer.
At a very early age, Jerry loved animals, especially horses. He was an “A” student in school, and in high school he was always on the honor roll. When he was in the 9th grade, he played varsity football, basketball, and track. He was 8th and 10th grade class president. His senior year he was student body president.
The summer before his junior year in school he met a new boy at football practice, John Whiting. Jerry gave him a ride home and on the front step of the house was John’s sister, Katie Whiting. It was the next spring at an MIA picnic that Jerry offered Katie a ride home which led to a lifelong love affair.
Jerry was an all-state high school athlete and after graduating from Kanab High School in 1951, he attended Brigham Young University on a football scholarship. In December 1951, Jerry proposed to Katie Whiting and they were married in the St. George LDS Temple on March 29, 1952. They had 5 children: Kay Jean, Lynn, Wanda, Sharee, and Jeff.
Shortly after their marriage, they moved to Mesa, Arizona, where Katie’s father, Ralph Whiting and her brothers had bought a dairy. Jerry became one of the partners in the new business. Jerry attended Arizona State University to further his education. The partnership began to expand by building and operating 17 Whiting Brothers service stations.
Katie’s grandparents and father had homesteaded a ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona and for the next 13 years of their marriage, they spent part of their summers there getting out of the heat in Mesa.
Jerry began playing M-Men Basketball the first year they were married in the Mesa 10th Ward and then the 15th Ward after the ward was divided. That first year, their ward won the region and went to the LDS All Church Tournament in Salt Lake City. They later won the region for seven more years and continued to the All Church playoffs.
In 1957, Ralph Whiting and sons, and Jerry and Katie Lewis bought a motel in Holbrook, Arizona, and moved there to operate the motel and build an additional 30 units onto it. The families also bought a small motel that was next to theirs and remodeled it and then built a new restaurant and named it Kolob.
When the families learned a new interstate highway might bypass Holbrook, they sold the restaurant and motel and moved back to Mesa.
In 1963, Ralph Whiting, his sons, and Jerry and Katie Lewis, bought a cattle ranch near Grand Junction, Colorado, and moved there to operate a ranch with 1,250 cows.
In 1966, the Jerry and Katie Lewis family moved to Kanab, Utah, where Jerry became a partner with his father, H. Bernell Lewis in Lewis Meats. While in Kanab, Jerry and Katie purchased the Parry Lodge from Whit Parry in 1966 and remodeled the lodge. While managing the lodge, Jerry became well acquainted with many of the Hollywood movie stars and directors that headquartered at the Parry Lodge while filming in the area.
In 1969, the Lewis family decided to open an extension of the Kanab-based Lewis Meats business in St. George with Jerry and his brother Pat Lewis managing Lewis Meats.
In 1980, Jerry, with his son-in-law, Omar Mathews, started L & M General Engineering and Construction Company and actively ran it for many years. In 1988, Jerry sold all of his interest in Lewis Meats to his younger brother Pat Lewis.
On Jan. 4, 1976, the 4th, 7th, and 9th LDS wards were divided to create the 12th Ward and Jerry was called to be the bishop of the 12th Ward. Jerry was released as bishop in November 1982. He then served as stake president in the St. George East Stake from January 1984 to January 1993.
In addition to serving as a bishop and stake president, Jerry has served his church in many capacities including home teacher, mutual secretary, Elder’s Quorum counselor, Ward Young Men president, assistant nursery leader, Sunday School superintendent, Stake M-Men leader, Sunday School teacher, one of the Seven Presidents of Seventies (in Kanab), high counselor, counselor in the Stake YM presidency, teachers quorum advisor, high priest group leader, primary teacher, and temple sealer.
Whatever church position he was called to do, he fufilled it with all of his strength and knowledge. His testimony was a beacon for many who needed a light to follow. He was an incredible leader and businessman. He was humble, compassionate, kind and had no guile. He loved his fellow man and served them through community service.
In 1976, Jerry ran for Washington County Commissioner and won. He served as a county commissioner from 1977 to 1999. During that time, he served 12 years as chairman of the commission. During his tenure as county commissioner, he was appointed to the Council on Criminal Justice by Gov. Scott Matheson in 1977. In 1986, he received the Utah Total Citizens Award from the State Chamber of Commerce and from the St. George Chamber of Commerce in 1990 he received the Outstanding Senior Man Award. He also served as president of the Utah Association of Counties in 1991. Also in 1991, he was named a member of the national association of county’s transportation steering committee. In 1992, he received the Outstanding County Official Award. The Bureau of Land Management also gave Jerry an award for dedicated service for the years 1980 through 1989. He also served on the Five County Association of Governments Steering Committee from 1981 to 1998.
From February 1999 to August 2000, Jerry and Katie Lewis served an LDS leadership mission in Macau as part of the Hong Kong, China Mission.
In 2002, he was appointed by Gov. Michael Leavitt to the Utah Transportation Commission and served in that capacity until 2013.
Jerry’s greatest enjoyment comes from being with his family. On many occasions, they went boating on Lake Powell and deer hunting in the western portions of Dixie National Forest. Family reunions and get togethers during holidays were also an important part of Jerry and Katie’s life. There was always time for family. One of his favorite pastimes was exploring the back roads of Utah, Northern Arizona and Southeastern Nevada with his wife, Katie until her passing, and then later with his wife Nellie.
A major void occurred in Jerry’s life when Katie passed away on May 27, 2006. He then married Nellie Whiting in 2007. She has been a loving helpmate and companion.
He was preceded in death by his parents, H. Bernell and Elva Lewis, brother Pat Lewis, son-in-laws Omar Mathews and Steve Hales, grandchildren, Joshua K. Mathews, Brett J. Mathews, Kaitlyn Jane Norton, and Charlie Jane (CJ) Lewis.
He is survived by his wife, Nellie Lewis, his two sisters, Judy Hurst and Kathleen Francom (Martin), his children, Kay Jean Mathews, Lynn Lewis (Mary Lue), Wanda Lewis, Sharee Webb (Loren) and Jeff Lewis (Rachel) and 17 grandchildren and 38 great- grandchildren. He also has 8 stepchildren and 25 step-grandchildren. Jerry and Katie were loving guardians of Edna Hancock (Bradd) and Zella Nelson and their nine children.
Funeral services for Jerry will be held Tuesday, December 20, 2022, at 11:00 am, in the St. George East Stake Center, 449 S. 300 East, St. George, Utah.
A visitation will be held at Spilsbury Mortuary, 110 South Bluff, St. George, on Monday, December 19, 2022 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm, and on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, from 9:30 - 10:30 am, prior to services at the Stake Center.
Burial will be in the St. George City Cemetery.
Friends and family that unable to attend the services in person are welcome to view the services virtually by clicking the link below:
Arrangements are under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary. Friends and family are invited to express condolences in the online guest book for Jerry Lewis at