Sally Eaves Lewis, 90, independent businesswoman, formidable fisher and hunter, and mother of two, spent much of her life at her home on Soda Canyon Road in Napa.

“She was a tough gal,” said her daughter, Windermere Tirados, who added in the same breath, “She was a lovely person.”

Born Sally Eaves on Sept. 24, 1927, Mrs. Lewis’ childhood was centered around Atlas Peak. Her great-grandfather, John Putnam Jackson, a union colonel during the Civil War, built the Napa Soda Springs resort on Soda Canyon Road in 1872.

In 1920, Mrs. Lewis’ grandparents built a house just a short walk from the resort. As a child, Mrs. Lewis roamed both properties with her pet horse, Tony, and her dog, Pooch. As an adult, she made frequent weekend trips up to the house, which survived a massive wildfire on Atlas Peak in 1981.

On Oct. 8, however, the fires roaring across the region moved too fast. Mrs. Lewis was killed, along with her caregiver, Teresa Santos.

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Wine Country Fires

Media: San Francisco Chronicle

Mrs. Lewis was an avid outdoorswoman. She taught her two daughters, Windermere and Dixie, whom she raised after her husband died, to hunt and fish. She would take them duck hunting in Colusa and fishing in the Sierra and Lake Tahoe.

“Mom always caught the biggest fish,” said Tirados.

She also traveled abroad — Europe, Australia, New Zealand — but more frequently at home. Mrs. Lewis never remarried and, when her daughters were young, she would take them for long summer road trips in her yellow Galaxie 500 convertible, heading to camping sites all over the United States.

After her husband died in 1958, Mrs. Lewis took over her husband’s school bus company, becoming one of two female licensed auto dealers in the state. The family lived in the Berkeley hills, making frequent weekend and summer trips to the family home in Napa.

Wildfires were always a known risk. The resort her great-grandfather built had long been abandoned when, in the 1960s, a wildfire swept through and finished it off, and in 1981 a fire almost consumed the family’s Napa house. In response, she outfitted the building with sprinklers on the roof and hoses connected to a reservoir.

After the Oakland hills fire of 1991 destroyed Mrs. Lewis’ Berkeley home, she made Napa her primary residence.

“It was like walking back into the 1920s, with not much remodeling,” Tirados said of her mother’s house. The home was where friends and families often gathered. The Tiradoses were married on the patio, which on clear days had a view of downtown San Francisco.

“It was a special place,” Tirados said.

Santos began full-time care of Mrs. Lewis at the house a year ago.

Tirados and her husband, Marlon, heard about the fire on Atlas Peak at 10:30 p.m. Sunday. At that point, the Napa County Sheriff’s Department didn’t realize that the fire had spread to Soda Canyon Road. Nevertheless, the couple and their adult sons took off for Mrs. Lewis’ house.

They barreled past fire trucks, drove up a driveway surrounded by flames, and smashed their car through the front gate, trying to get to the house. But it was already engulfed in flames. “There was a 20-foot fire tornado column spinning around the patio,” Windermere Tirados said.

The couple, with their sons in a separate car behind them, barely escaped the fire.

Tirados described her mother as “a down- to-earth person who loved everybody.”

“Everybody called her ‘Mom,’” she said. “She took everybody under her wing.”

In addition to Tirados, who resides in Vacaville, Mrs. Lewis is survived by daughter Dixie Lewis of Cazadero; two grandsons, Warner and Errol Tirados; and a brother, Jackson Eaves.

Jonathan Kauffman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:

Twitter: @jonkauffman