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Lew Hunter's Future Eulogy by Chuck MittanLew Hunter

Originally released by The Superior Express (Superior, Nebraska's weekly)

It's screenwriting colony time again in Superior. Twice a year, wannabe screenwriters (though professor Lew Hunter prefers the term “gottabe” screenwriters to describe members of his flocks) are drawn to Nebraska's Victorian capital like moths to a flame. Or, to use one of Hunter's picks for best movies ever, like E.T. to the mother ship.

Those with a laptop and a dream.

My wife, Kathy, who has never been all that interested in writing anything, says he inspires her to write like no one ever has. As an English teacher herself, she has taught writing, but says she's never been able to motivate people like that.

“Whenever I've been around him for a few hours, I just want to write when I get home,” she said. “I'd like to tell him that, but I don't want to be a suck-up. He'd probably be more impressed if I actually wrote something.”

I hope she doesn't mind me telling him for her here in my column.

I've known Lew for many years; I was working as the news editor at another nearby weekly when his book, Screenwriting 434, was first published. I interviewed him over the telephone from his home in Burbank, Calif., for a story. Shortly thereafter, I met him face-to-face at Pa-Hur Days in Guide Rock (where he grew up).

He was in Guide Rock for the annual celebration and to visit relatives; I was in the cast of a one-act children's play called “Foxy Fables” that a little theatre company was performing across southcentral Nebraska at small-town festivals, including Pa-Hur Days in Guide Rock, Street Car Days in Red Cloud, the Riverton alumni banquet and the Bladen Storytelling Festival. I also wrote the play.

I don't know how my performance was that day, after learning Lew was in the audience. The show weaved a dozen or so of my favorite of Aesop's Fables into one story. I can't remember all the parts I played, but I remember playing Zeus, looking like John Belushi in “Animal House” with an enormous 1980s cell-phone.

Suffice it to say I was nervous. Like when I was performing in “Paint Your Wagon” at the Omaha Playhouse several years before the summer of Foxy Fables, and found out Walter Matthau was in the audience.

As an actor, that'll get your heart pumping.

Saucy and nurturing are both good words to describe Lew. There are lots more.

I have a friend from one of last year's colonies, which took vacation from work and attended full-time, who said shortly after the colony, “I can't believe it took me this long to find a saucy, nurturing mentor.”

Saucy and nurturing are both good words to describe Lew. There are lots more.

People in Superior rarely see the screenwriting world Lew still works in at various times throughout the year, though they are welcome to; the colonies have an open-door policy. Likewise, his writing students don't get to see his other work — his work with the TeamMates mentoring program; his passionate stand against drugs in our communities and schools; his appearances at those schools, talking to students about writing and being good people and believing in themselves.

As one of the rare observers of both of those worlds, I've seen it all. God bless you, Lew.