Lewis Vernon Chesser Jr.
July 13, 1933 – July 20, 2020
Rev. Lewis Vernon Chesser, Jr., of Fort Smith, Arkansas, passed away on July 20, 2020. He was born July 13, 1933, in Attalla, Alabama to Lewis Vernon Chesser, Sr., and Bessie Ophelia (Hicks) Chesser. Although his family moved around, including two stints in Washington, DC, Lewis primarily grew up in Red Level and Andalusia, Alabama, surrounded by his loving extended family. He was a proud graduate of the University of Alabama, where he received a degree in physics and also served as editor of Mahout magazine. Lewis loved watching sports. He was a lifelong Crimson Tide fan, although after moving to Arkansas, his second allegiance, with frequent frustration, was to the Razorbacks. After graduating from college, Lewis went to work as an engineer for Boeing in Seattle, Washington. It was during this time that he met Elsie May (“Mazie”) Louthan, who was traveling in the Seattle area during the summer of 1959. They were married the following year. Lewis enrolled in Duke Divinity School, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in divinity in 1963. Upon graduation, he joined the North Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, where he served as an elder in full connection, and in a mentoring role for numerous clergy, students, and others for most of his life.
During his active career as a minister, he served North Arkansas United Methodist churches in Plumerville; Green Forest; Alpena; Fayetteville (the Wesley Foundation at the University of Arkansas, St. James, and Sequoyah); Fort Smith (Hendricks Hills); Waldron; and Charleston. He was also an accomplished poet who completed a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Arkansas; he was well known for his thoughtful Christmas season poems.
In addition to being a minister and poet, Lewis was an excellent carpenter. He designed and built a cabin on his land near Green Forest, known to the family as “Chesserpeak,” and he spent his retirement years lovingly restoring his 1890 Queen Anne Style Victorian home in Fort Smith, where he resided until his death. He was preceded in death by his parents; his sister, Gayle Nicholson; his sister, Jeanne Hinton; and his loving wife of 58 years, Mazie Chesser. Survivors include three children: Wib Chesser (Frances Wu) of Washington, D.C.; Dawn Chesser (Scot Danforth) of Knoxville, Tennessee; William Chesser (Alison Turner) of Fayetteville, Arkansas; and five grandchildren: William Gill Giese of Oahu, Hawaii; Christopher Giese of Madison, Wisconsin; Leith Chesser and Lila Chesser of Washington D.C.; and Ares Chesser of Fayetteville, Arkansas; along with numerous family members, ministry colleagues, former parishioners, and friends. Due to the current situation with Covid-19, a Memorial Celebration of Lewis Chesser’s life will be scheduled at a later time.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made through the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas and directed to the “Rev. Lewis V. and Mazie Chesser Memorial Fund for St. James United Methodist Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas.” Gifts directed to this Fund may be mailed to UMFA, 601 Wellington Village Road, Little Rock, AR 72211. To make an electronic gift call the foundation at 501-664-8632 or donate directly through this link: http://www.methodistfoundationar.org/donate
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Lewis Vernon Chesser Jr.
August 1, 2020
Lewis shared a room with me at Annual Conference one year. He came in late knocking on the room door and calling for “John, John,”. So I got up and let him in, He told me he had misplaced his room key. I told him my name was Jim, not John. A while laterLewis got up to go to the bathroom down the hall, though I know he tried to block the door open I heard it click shut as he left. I waited knowing I would soon have to let him in again. Quite a while later there was a knock on the door and Lewis calling “John, John.” I got up to let him in and asked why it had taken him so long to come back to the room. “I’ve been outside trying to find my room key in my car,” he said. He was in his underwear! From that moment on Lewis called me John. Sadly enough I learned to answer to that name. What a great, funny guy! I loved him so much and will miss him even more!
Linda Ridener Dickson
July 31, 2020
Such a wonderful friend. Will miss the chats we used to have.
Kathy (Watson) Robinette
July 31, 2020
Lewis Chesser was my family's pastor at Green Forest UMC when I was in high school, but he was much more than that to my family. When I graduated from high school and started school at the University of Arkansas, Lewis had been reassigned to the Wesley Foundation there, so he remained my pastor and friend through the first hard years of adjustment to life away from home and stayed close to my family. He and my father hiked the mountain near Green Forest many times over the years, and it was amazing to watch him build a rock fireplace in the cabin on Chesserpeak by following instructions in a book. He was a wonderful creative, compassionate man with a finely tuned sense of humor who will be missed.
July 31, 2020
Lewis and Mazie (Dawn was a cheerleader and William, who was still little) , were our “family away from home” during U. A. When one of us screwed up mightily, he would say, “Well, I guess this is one of those chances for God’s grace to occur.” His epic ping pong games with David and Greg left both of them sweating and breathless. I guess I just have to say that he and Mazie just loved us. BH
July 29, 2020
I am sorry for your loss. Lewis and Mazy were a very big influence in my life. I spent my college years at the Wesley Foundation. I have many fond memories of all the ping pong matches, poetry discussions, the “Pierce House Gang”, and all the love and friendship they provided.
July 27, 2020
Lewis was brilliant with a wicked wit. My favorite Chesser-ism starts with "We are a body of Christ, and every body needs...." You fill in the blank.
July 27, 2020
Dear Beloved Family of Lewis,
I am so very sorry about your loss. I am a friend of Wib and Frances, and have heard so many stories, yet learned a tremendous amount from the obituary and highlights of Lewis' life--from his intellectual pursuits to his carpentry skills to his love for family and community. My thoughts are with you, especially during this difficult time.