A historic life: Helen M. Lewis remembered fondly during homegoing services

By Monique Jones

The Birmingham Times

The funeral for Helen M. Lewis, held at First Congregational Christian Church. (Monique Jones, The Birmingham Times)
The funeral for Helen M. Lewis, held at First Congregational Christian Church. (Monique Jones, The Birmingham Times)

Mourners gathered at the First Congregational Christian Church in Birmingham to pay final respects to Mrs. Helen M. Lewis, wife of Dr. Jesse Lewis, Sr., founder of The Birmingham Times.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Housing Authority of the Birmingham District President and CEO Michael Lundy and Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt were among those in attendance who paid tribute to Mrs. Lewis.

“It is an honor for me to stand here as Mayor of Birmingham,” said Bell, recounting Mrs. Lewis’ accomplishments, which included her role as former vice president and chief financial officer of The Birmingham Times.

Bell described Mrs. Lewis as a “quiet spoken woman…who was the engine behind the scenes, making things work.” The mayor added that Mrs. Lewis “was a vital component, not just of this community, but this entire city.”

Dr. Lewis also spoke during the service of the “amazing woman” he was married to for 62 years.

On her list of what was important, Dr. Lewis said her children were first, church second, and he was third. “I’m glad to have been on that list,” he said.

Rev. Rodney Franklin, pastor of First Congregational Christian Church, based his eulogy around Mrs. Lewis’s worship and fear of God, as well as her commitment to community service. “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” Franklin said, citing Proverbs 31:10.

Franklin spoke of Mrs. Lewis’ wisdom and fearlessness, two qualities he reiterated in a parable about two daughters who went to make their fortune; one coming back with nothing, the other coming back with gifts from friends she met along the way. The daughter who returned having positively touched the lives of others was said by her father to have made “good and lasting marks”. Franklin compared Mrs. Lewis to her. “[She] left long and lasting marks in life’s journey,” he said.

Franklin’s remarks echoed what Bell told Mrs. Lewis’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren earlier. “Remember the things she taught you, the value of family,” he said. “If you remember [these values], she’ll always be in your heart.”