May 28, 2024

Rachel Alice Lewis, beloved daughter, treasured friend, and creative idealist died unexpectedly on June 23, 2023. Her departure came as a great shock to those who loved her.

Rachel was born on January 19, 1981, to Judd and Charlotte Phillips Lewis (now Charlotte Parsons). Until his death in 1992, Judd and his little “One” were inseparable. He encouraged both her adventurous and intellectual pursuits and it served her well later in life.

If you knew Rachel, you knew she was deeply passionate and incredibly resolute. She never did anything half-heartedly. Whatever she believed in or whatever cause she supported, she did so with commitment and determination.

These tendencies were clear from an early age. As a child, Rachel had a flair for the dramatic, enlisting friends and family to write and stage plays, solve invented mysteries, participate in elaborately themed parties, or scheme up new actions to help save the planet. There were no ideas too big or too outrageous for Rachel’s energetic imagination. Her sense of humor and playfulness lit up every room she inhabited.

In high school, Rachel channeled her energy into many activities and she excelled at all of them. She competed on a state level in cross country, track and drama. She competed nationally in forensics. She starred in a play at the Barter Theatre and served as a page in the Virginia General Assembly.

Rachel graduated from William & Mary in 2003. She studied public policy and exercised her lifelong commitment to activism and the environment, helping to organize the college’s first Earth Day celebration and its first “green audit”. She spent two years living in William & Mary’s International House, where she made friends from many different cultures. She studied abroad in Spain where she indulged in flamenco dancing. Rachel’s love for dancing and travel never waned.  

After graduating, she served as a legislative aide in Senator Hillary Clinton’s office. Her work there focused on agriculture and issues impacting rural communities. Rachel eventually moved from the legislative arena to communications, working for several nonprofits before starting her own consulting business. She earned a Master’s Degree in Public Relations & Corporate Communication from Georgetown University in 2010. She was passionate about her work with non-profit groups supporting voter rights, women’s issues, and the environment, and she became an advocate for the importance of media and information literacy. 

Rachel loved to learn and fiercely believed that education and exposure to art and beauty could change the world.  As all of her friends knew, her dream was to develop Project X, a concept she envisioned that blended art, entertainment, influence, activism, and education. 

Although Rachel loved living in DC and dreamed of a life on a tropical island, she had a deep appreciation for the culture, people, and mountains of Southwest Virginia. She was always fiercely proud of where she came from. She moved back to Abingdon in 2021.   

Rachel’s life was driven by compassion and love. She was loyal, protective, and deeply committed to her friends and family. Once Rachel loved you, she always loved you. She never forgot a loved one. She was sensitive to the needs of others, often putting others' needs in front of her own. One person she was especially devoted to was her grandmother Minnie Phillips. In the last months of Minnie’s life, Rachel was devoted and compassionate as she assisted in her grandmother’s care. Time spent with her grandmother helped Rachel develop a love of gardening, an appreciation of family stories, and a strong sense of Christian values. 

Rachel was fortunate to have grown up with a church family at Sinking Spring Presbyterian church where she was active in the youth activities and enjoyed the company of many of the elderly members of the congregation.

Rachel leaves behind her mother, Charlotte Parsons, her uncle Robert Phillips, who often served as Rachel’s surrogate father, her aunts Reba Griffith and Mildred Artrip, her Phillips, Lambert and Lewis cousins who loved her dearly, and her cherished dog Goose. 

Rachel’s absence leaves behind a wound that will never heal and will be felt deeply by her family, friends, and countless community members who cherished her.

If Rachel had a chance to say goodbye, or, for one last time tell us what to do, she would tell us to make the world a better place than the one we found. She would insist we be kind and care for each other, especially for those less fortunate than us. She would want us to be true to ourselves and to be brave. She would want us to live our lives the way she strove to live hers: by making time for loved ones, by doing the things that bring us joy, and by letting all we do be done in love. 

A celebration to honor Rachel’s life will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, 2024, at Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church, 136 Main St, Abingdon. There will be a visitation in the church parlor starting at 2:30 p.m.

To support the many causes that were important to Rachel contributions may be made to the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia, P. O. Box 1159 Roanoke, Va., 24006  http://www.cfwesternva.org or the Foundation for Appalachian Virginia, P. O. Box 2194 Coeburn, Va., 24230. Please designate the Rachel A. Memorial Fund.