Drowned BR firefighter's wife reveals life's adversities

Jennifer and Jacob Lewis
Jennifer and Jacob Lewis

With a wedding ring just eight months old, Jennifer Lewis, 27, holds her husband's memories close to heart.

"I miss him very much," said Jennifer.

Jennifer and her husband, Jacob Lewis, 28, were on the Belle River January 30th setting crawfish traps. When it came time to leave, Jacob went to hook the boat to the trailer while Jennifer waited in their truck.

"I'm getting out the truck and that's where I saw he was no longer in the boat, and he was actually swimming against the current," said Jennifer.

It was the last time she saw her husband. That night, Lewis said, "I lost my husband. I lost my friend."

A friend is exactly how Baton Rouge Fire Department Chief Ed Smith said he will remember Jacob, a firefighter for four years.

"I had seen Jacob just a week to three days before the event," said Chief Smith.

A month later, Jacob's body was found just a few miles from where he was last seen, but planning her husband's funeral would prove to be her latest challenge.

"We knew soon after she was born that she was having liver failure," said Jennifer's mother Cyndie Branch.

At eight months, Jennifer received a liver. Over the coming years, she would be in and out of the hospital with medication to prevent her body from rejection. The donated liver would take her through the next 26 years. Her next adversity came with her father.

"Three years ago, my dad was paralyzed from the waist down," said Jennifer.

"He was cutting trees down. They were cutting for firewood and a tree turned and it got him in the back," said Branch. "He is a rock for the family."

It left Danny Branch wheelchair bound. The next year, December 2010, Jennifer met the love of her life.

"He always said that the first time he saw me, he knew that I was going to be his wife," said Jennifer.

July of last year, the two started a new life. Then beginning of this year, a routine checkup found her liver was failing again. She was placed on a waiting list for a transplant. Around the same time, Jacob drowned. Even through that emotional roller coaster, Jennifer said the fact her new liver was donated on what would have been their first Valentine's Day as husband and wife, was no coincidence.

"I guess it was kind of like you know another gift he gave me," said Jennifer.

Jennifer's father Danny said their lives are sometimes comparable to "The Book Of Job," but the power of prayer pulls them through every time they fall. As for Jacob, he may be gone, but alive in everyone's hearts.

"We are a team because we are together and united. Anytime you lose one, part of the team, it's a void you can't fill," said Chief Smith.

Jacob's funeral is Saturday, March 9th.

Visitation will be 8 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 865 Hatchell Ln., Denham Springs.

Rosary service will be at 10 a.m.

A funeral service in his honor will be at noon with interment following immediately at Evergreen Memorial Park, 1710 Range Avenue, Denham Springs.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Baton Rouge Fire Department's Federal Credit Union in the account set up for Jacob Lewis.

The Baton Rouge Fire Department and several other agencies will lead the funeral with a procession.

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