Rebecca Jean Lewis


Rebecca Jean Lewis left this world on April 30, 2023, following a 36-year chess match with cancer. She was finally checkmated in December of 2022. Rebecca was born in Duluth and was the daughter of Guilford S. Lewis and Katherine Stephenson. Rebecca grew up in Duluth and in Spartanburg, SC, returning to Duluth in 1978. Rebecca met her life partner, Jeff Denny, in 1982 and over the next 40 years they enjoyed a full and happy life including European travel, wild rice harvesting, maple syrup making and restoring their homestead in Lakewood Township. Rebecca and Jeff shared their home with four amazing golden retrievers Zeke, Luke, Max and now, Luigi.

Rebecca was dedicated to her career as an architect. In 1990, she became one of the first female architectural interns in northeastern Minnesota, obtaining her license as an registered architect in 1994. Rebecca worked with her architectural family at DSGW Architecture for 33 years. Rebecca’s professional focus in architecture was on rural health and providing expertise and support to small, underserved communities that needed clinics and hospitals. Her projects are in many states and include the following: The Red Cliff Clinic, Red Cliff, Wisconsin; Bay Mills Health Care Center, Brimley, Michigan; Lac Vieux Desert Clinic, Watersmeet, Michigan; Marywood and Westwood, BHC senior housing, St. Scholastica, Duluth; for St. Lukes Hospital many clinics and outpatient facilities in Duluth, Hermantown, Mt. Iron and Ashland; the Essentia Health Deerwood, MN; Lakewalk North and Lakewalk Center additions; for Welia Health, the Welia Hospital in Mora, MN and the Pine City Clinic and Urgency Center, Pine City, MN; the North Shore Health Hospital and Care Center in Grand Marais, MN; the Ponca Clinic, Omaha, Nebraska and projects in North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Her many A & L Properties projects include the Weiland Block, Diamond Willow Assisted Livings, Essentia east and west Duluth Clinics and Northland Country Club.

Volunteer efforts were a big part of Rebecca’s commitment to healthcare, and she was a nationally recognized voice for speaking and teaching on the issues of rural healthcare. Rebecca contributed to many organizations throughout her career including American College of Health Care Architects as a founding member and the first woman to lead as President in 2008. Rebecca was elevated to Fellow in ACHA. In the American Institute of Architects, Rebecca was elevated to Fellow and went on to serve on the AIA Fellowship Jury. In AIA, Rebecca served on the Board of the Academy of Architecture for Health, organized conferences such as the Summer Leadership Summit and initiated a mentorship group. In Minnesota for AIA, Rebecca was selected to be the AIA-MN representative to the State Designer Selection Board and served on numerous juries and committees over the years. Rebecca most enjoyed her 20 years of working with the Facilities Guidelines Institute on healthcare building codes. First as a member of the Health Guidelines Revision Committee and AIA Liaison evolving to a Steering Committee member and finally, a Vice Chair for the 2026 edition of the Guidelines. She regrets not being able to complete her role all the way to publication. Rebecca was the proud recipient of many certificates of appreciation from these professional groups as well as the 1990 Alpha Rho Chi Medal, the 1990 ND-AIA Award and the 2020 Pioneer Award from FGI. Best of all, many of the professional colleagues she met doing this work became close friends, for which she was always grateful.

Rebecca leaves behind her life partner Jeff Denny and pet Luigi, 7 brothers and sisters and a beloved stepmother, Rondi Erickson. Special thanks to the huge team of doctors over the 36 years at Mayo Clinic, Rochester and Essentia Health Duluth, notably Dr. Ingrid Nisswandt-Larsen. Also, thanks for the friendships of her DSGW family, the local quilting groups, her friends at Builders Commonwealth where she worked during architecture school, and all her clients.

“Please help others if you can, especially those with limited options.” Rjl

A Celebration of Life will be announced and held at a later date.

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