A Fitting Tribute

John LewellenJohn Lewellen, Sr., simply loved being outside. It didn’t matter what he was doing; as long as he was outdoors, he was a happy man. “He just would not be inside for anything,” says his son, John Lewellen, Jr., of Fort Smith. “He wanted to be outside with nature.”


So when Lewellen, Jr.—who had wanted for years to do something to publicly honor his father—heard about the opportunity to name the outdoor reading area being built along the northwest side of UAFS’s Boreham Library, he knew it was exactly the thing he’d been waiting for.


But, as natural a fit as it may have seemed to Lewellen, Jr., the gift he made to name the John Lewellen, Sr., Outdoor Reading Area came as an utter surprise to UAFS development officer Anne Thomas, who, one day in late December, took an unusual call asking her to come over to Towson Avenue Pawn to pick up a check for the UAFS Foundation.


When she arrived, she met Lewellen, Jr.—who owns the shop, along with three other pawn shops in the area—for the first time and, although she had no idea what it contained, thanked him graciously for the sealed envelope he handed her. It wasn’t until she was back in her car that she opened it to find a $100,000 check.


Although Lewellen, Jr., has engaged in charitable giving for much of his life—following in his father’s footsteps by giving to churches in low-income areas of the city—it was his first gift to UAFS.


“It’s a small way for me to honor him,” says Lewellen, Jr. “If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be where I am. Period. He gave me the tools to grow to the point I’ve grown.”


Plans for the John Lewellen, Sr., Outdoor Reading Area show not only a pleasant, tree-shaded patio area with generous, café-style seating, but also a grassy, south-facing slope, ideal for spreading out to study—or maybe just being outside with nature, the way Lewellen, Sr., so enjoyed.