Hebe Juanita Lewis Gais
Hebe Juanita Lewis Gais died early morning, April 4, 2017, in north St. Louis County. She was born to Sarah Adams and John Anders Lewis in Morehead, Kentucky, on August 18, 1921. She was the eighth of ten children—seven girls and three boys—all of whom were raised on a farm on Christy Creek, a few miles east of Morehead, flanked by the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
After graduating from Breckinridge Training School, Hebe (or Juanita or sometimes “Juanie”) attended Morehead State Teachers College. In 1942, during her sophomore year, Ms. Lewis was recruited to be a Curtiss-Wright Cadette, a program funded by the federal government and operated by the airplane manufacturer and several universities to train young women with strong math skills to become engineers and design airplanes for the war effort.
After completing her intensive training at the University of Texas at Austin, she went to St. Louis to work for Curtiss-Wright in 1944. Later she worked at McDonnell Aircraft and Emerson Electric. In between these jobs, she was a buyer trainee for Stix Baer and Fuller, where she accumulated a lovely wardrobe but returned to engineering to pay off the bills.
Near the end of 1946, she began dating Frederick Sandford Gais, an engineer from Rochester, New York. Despite a botched first date, they fell in love and married in St. Louis on September 11, 1949. She left her job at Emerson Electric in 1950 when she was pregnant with her first child, Susan. Hebe and Fred then went on to have five more children: Thomas, Joseph, Jennifer, Sarah, and Nancy. After Joseph was born, they moved out of their small home in Florissant into a north St. Louis County house they constructed from a barn perched on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River and Pelican Island.
Hebe loved, cherished, and cared for three generations of children. Her 16 grandchildren include Alfred and Teresa Tanny (Greene); Hannah and Joseph Gais; Dawn (Eggleston), Jonathon, Jessica, and Austin Gais; Matthew, John, and Zachary Spica; Susan, Samantha, and Jack Broadfoot; and Rachel and Aaron O’Callahan. Her eight great-grandchildren are Hayden, Benjamin, and Henry Eggleston; Jacob Greene; and Lucas, Collin, Ethan, and Elise Yost. She is also survived by six children-in-law—Robin Gais, Jack Tanny, Cathy Johnson, Jack O’Callahan, Kevin Spica, and Mike Broadfoot—as well as four grand-children-in-law, Erik Eggleston, Aaron Greene, Amy Gais, and Brian Yost.
In the opinion of those lucky enough to have been in her family, Hebe Gais was the most gracious human being we’ve ever known. She loved children and found them endlessly amusing. She even appreciated adolescents. After Nancy started school, Hebe worked as a substitute teacher and thoroughly enjoyed high school students. She was a great gardener, an incredible cook (her piecrusts were fabulous), a brilliant bridge player, a knowledgeable baseball fan, and an enthusiastic traveler with her adoring spouse. Before he died in 1994, she and Fred enjoyed 45 years with one another, their many friends, and their ever-growing family.
We will miss her stories and silly songs; her smile and laughs for every child; her ability to make all around her feel welcome and at ease; her ridiculous denials of ever having been sick; her engineer’s skill at fixing anything with whatever’s handy; her willingness to see only the best in each of us; and her excitement on seeing the first spring arrival of a hummingbird. Hebe Gais loved this world, and we give thanks that we were part of it.
Private services will be arranged at a later date. The family requests that those who wish to provide gifts to please consider donations in memory of “Fred and Hebe Gais” to Berea College, a rigorous liberal arts college in Kentucky that charges no tuition for academically promising low-income students in Appalachia. Checks may be sent to Berea College, CPO 2216, Berea, KY 40404, or donations may be made online at https://www.berea.edu/give/.