The Mountainair community remembers Private First Class Walter Lewark this week, following his death on Feb. 13 in Africa.
He was serving in the National Guard in Africa and was killed in a “non-combat related incident while stationed at Camp Lemonnier,” according to a press release.
Lewark was part of an operation called Enduring Freedom Horn of Africa, and one of his roles was to help train military forces, according to his widow Brandi Lewark.
Walter Lewark leaves behind two children, a son five years old and a daughter seven years old, from a previous marriage to Jaylene Lewark.
Walter Lewark was extremely involved in the community in Mountainair and Torrance County. He worked for the Torrance County Fire Department, the Mountainair Fire Department, the Mountainair Police Department, and the Mountainair Animal Control.
Dennis Fulfer, town clerk in Mountainair, was both friends and family to Lewark.
Lewark married Fulfer’s cousin and as a result Fulfer was the DJ at their wedding. Fulfer said they were friends for about eight years, and remembers Lewark as “an ambitious young man who was passionate about serving in his community.”
Fulfer also remembers him as “one of the highest qualified firefighters we had,” and said, “It’s such a shame we lost him because he was an inspiration to all his peers, … what a real man is, and he exuded that ambition.”
Fire Chief Philip Nelson is a former brother-in-law and colleague of Lewark and also remembers him fondly.
Nelson met Lewark almost a decade ago, while he was dating Nelson’s sister-in-law. Nelson also helped recruit Lewark to the local fire department when he was about 18 or 19 years old because Nelson’s family is and was heavily involved, he said.
Nelson said that Lewark “was one of my highest trained firefighters and he did every kind of training he could get his hands on.” He also remembers him as a person “who really had the heart of a servant, he loved his community and he was always anxious to serve his community.”
The Torrance County Fire Chief’s administrative assistant Hannah Sanchez was another close friend of Lewark. Sanchez said they became friends in 2017 but that “they just clicked, so I felt like I had known him my whole life. He was my ‘little big brother.’”
Sanchez and Lewark first met in a basic EMT class and she said he was the “goofy guy in class.”
She describes him as a very generous person and a jokester. “He was the type of person that could make anyone laugh,” she said. “If you were having a bad day he could make it go away.”
Sanchez said that when her son was a toddler she was gifted a book called “Walter the Farting Dog,” which became a favorite of her son and a book she read a bunch of times.
“I had never known anyone named Walter before and as soon as I met him I knew his nickname would have to be ‘Walter the Farting Dog,’” she said, adding that in his silly nature he thought the nickname was funny.
“On behalf of the Torrance County Fire Department we will miss him greatly,” she said. Sanchez is also a long-time friend of Lewark’s widow Brandi, and met her in elementary school in Moriarty.
Brandi Lewark had known Walter off and on for about eight years, and in the last three years she said they became very close. They ended up in the same EMT class about three years ago, when their friendship blossomed into something more, and on Sept. 21, 2019, the couple married.
Brandi Lewark remembers her husband as a person who was very loving, with a personality of a caring nature and that he was one of the “biggest goofy people and he would do everything he could to make you laugh.”
Brandi Lewark recalls telling him one day that she really admired the spirit of giving that emanated from him and how he retorted that he was excited to join the National Guard and begin another leg of his journey to give back and serve. “He was so supportive and always there to help,” she said.
Walter Lewark’s services will be held on March 2 at 11 a.m. at the Civic Center in Moriarty. In lieu of flowers the family is asking that donations be made instead to the USO or to the Fisher house, which is a foundation that supports families of fallen soldiers, as well as soldiers who are wounded and needing rehabilitation services.