Carly Lewis was two weeks shy of her 17th birthday when she was killed. She would have been a senior at Traverse City High School this year. Her violent murder sent shock waves around Northern Michigan and her family, friends and the Traverse City community continue to mourn her loss as the murder trial of the suspect is expected to wrap up this week.
Her parents try to make sense of the tragedy as they reflect on their daughter and her life.
“She lived every day to her fullest,” said Todd Lewis, Carly’s father. “Everybody who met Carly loved her, she was a joy to be around.”
Carly’s parents divorced nearly 10 years ago but they shared custody of both of their children. Carly has an older brother, Mitchell, who graduated this past June from Traverse City Central and is currently attending bible college in Grand Rapids, studying to be a minister.
“I knew it was important for the kids to have their dad in their lives so we agreed to joint custody and since we both lived in Traverse City we did one week each with the kids,” said Susie Ooley-Lewis, Carly’s mother. “Carly would put on happy face even when she wasn’t happy. She had a way about her and she liked to see other people happy.”
Carly was passionate about a lot of things, her family, friends and animals, with high school graduation on the horizon she had a few aspirations for her future.
“She expressed interest in orthodontistry,” said Ooley-Lewis. “She liked white teeth and was always polishing her teeth. But Carly wasn’t one to think too far into the future; she had a tendency to live in the moment. I think ultimately she would become a hairdresser. She talked about going to beauty school and she liked styling hair. We talked about being partners and working together.”
‘LOVED THIS TOWN’
Todd felt that whatever Carly decided to do it would have been here in Traverse City.
“She loved this town. We would take trips together and she would always comment how Traverse City was so much prettier than the place we would visit,” said Lewis. “Carly lived in the moment and she spoke of different things she wanted to do, but she wasn’t really focused on her future. She loved animals and mentioned working with animals for a job.”
According to both parents, much of what Carly focused on was having fun and making sure those around her were happy and having fun.
“To know her was to love her,” said Lewis. “Everybody who met Carly loved her, she was a joy to be around.”
Her mother added: “She was always buying and making gifts for others; she just loved to give of herself as well to others,” said Ooley-Lewis. “She loved crafts and would make bracelets for her friends.”
Carly, despite not playing sports on a regular basis, was quite athletic. Her grandfather was Coach Jim Ooley the legendary football coach who helped to put Traverse City football on the map.
“She definitely was a tomboy growing up,” said Lewis. “Even when she was little she would put the worms on the hook and and take her own fish off the hook.”
Susie Ooley-Lewis remembers that out of the blue Carly wanted to play soccer.
“In 9th grade she went out for the soccer team and made it after not having played soccer since she was in first grade,” said Ooley-Lewis. “I was impressed she went out there and kicked but it was as if she had been playing her whole life like the rest of the girls on the team.
Another sport Carly took up was disc golf, something her father was also very passionate about. She loved it not for the competitive aspects but for the social aspects of it,” said Lewis.
Her parents also said Carly was a friend magnet.
“She was a social genius,” said Lewis.
“Carly was on the phone and Facebook all the time and she always said ‘love you’ to her friends and family. Even if she did something that bothered you, you could never stay mad at her. She would win you back over. She was a great friend and was always on the go with her friends.”
“Carly had so many friends from all walks of life, some with money and some without; she wasn’t prejudicial,” said Ooley- Lewis. “She would befriend anyone. Carly was always willing and would go out of her way to help friends.”
Todd Lewis works as a sales agent for AAA Insurance. He has yet to return to work.
“I just can’t function right now, I think about her every moment of everyday and can’t believe she is gone,” said Lewis. “I hope to return to work after the trial ends this week. My clients and employer have been very supportive during all of this.”
For Susie there was no choice but to return to work.
“I own a hair salon so I had to return to work. I get counseling once a week and that has helped,” said Ooley-Lewis. “Everything takes me so much longer to do now, it is harder to concentrate. My clients have been supportive, so has my family, friends and Carly’s friends.”
After the trial ends this week both Todd and Susie hope to focus their energies on seeing at least something positive come out of Carly’s memory.
“The only way I am able to justify this horrific thing is to believe that Carly’s death was meant to be to make sure that something like this will never happen again in our community,” said Lewis. “That in her death awareness will arise that we need to start creating more opportunities in our community for our youth to stay active and have some sense of purpose.”
Todd Lewis has started that process by creating with other volunteers Carly’s Playground, a disc golf course at Mt. Holiday in Traverse City.
“Building Carly’s Playground was very therapeutic for me,” said Lewis. “It is open but we have more work to do. We are getting ready to put in custom tee signs at each hole with a different picture of Carly on each one. My motivation for doing this was to honor Carly and have a place where her friends, classmates and the community can go to remember her.”
Lewis pauses. “Maybe if this place existed before the person responsible for taking Carly’s life might not have done what he did,” said Lewis. “Maybe this person would have felt like he belonged to something, a community of people who play disc golf together. So I hope this course helps troubled youth.
Susie is also very supportive of Todd’s work on Carly’s Playground (the dedication will be June 9 & 10, 2012) but she has a couple of other additional ideas she would like to see done as memorials to her daughter.
“We need a dog park in this town and I would like to see that named in her honor and the park established near the library where Carly was killed,” said Lewis. “The other thing I would like is to see the building she was killed in torn down. I drive by it almost everyday and it serves as a terrible reminder to all of us as to what happen to Carly.”