East High School student remembered at funeral following tragic murder

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East on Arcadia High School Marching Band enters the funeral for bandmate Dennis Lewis.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News)
East on Arcadia High School Marching Band enters the funeral for bandmate Dennis Lewis.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News)

Dennis Lewis was a senior at East on Arcadia High School. Lewis died last week after being shot during a robbery in his Linden home. Lewis’s funeral was held Thursday.

The Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s East Side was filled with people mourning the death of a promising young man – Dennis Lewis. Lewis was just two weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he died protecting his mother during a robbery at their Linden home. Lewis was a senior at East on Arcadia High School where he was a member of the National Honor Society. He also played the sousaphone in the school’s marching band.

“He loved the band. He loved playing that tuba. I mean, he’d just whomp it. Smooth and loud. But smooth,” Vanisha Walker said.

Walker holds a flute as she stands outside the church in her band uniform. She’s getting ready to go in with the rest of East’s marching band members to pay their last respects to their beloved tuba player. Walker knew Lewis since freshman year.

Walker said Lewis was “fun, energetic. He wasn’t a mean guy, you know? Like, everybody, I don’t know nobody that didn’t like him. He make you smile. Just loveable. If you was down he’d help you out. If you needed a dollar, he’d give you a dollar. You feel me?”

Orange roses topped Lewis’s casket inside the church – orange for his school color. The graduation cap he would have worn later this year lay near his head in the white casket. Following the hymn sung by mourners, “We Will Understand It Better By and By,” the East on Arcadia High School Marching Band entered the sanctuary. Members appeared to leave a space where Lewis would have marched. The band’s energy reflected his life.

In addition to playing in the band, Lewis was active in theater, he was on the volleyball team, ran track and played tennis. He also tutored at Trevitt Heights Elementary School and volunteered at Godman Guild. He also worked for Giant Eagle where he had just received a promotion.

There were many people who spoke at Lewis’s funeral: representatives for Mayor Michael Coleman and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Gene Harris and cousins and aunts.

Lewis’s band director, Martha Howell, said she spoke to Lewis the Friday before he died. Howell said they talked about his options for college. She said Lewis was considering a college in Alabama well known for its marching band. Howell described Lewis as a great young man.

“And I’m telling you I don’t understand. But it’s alright that I don’t understand. Because of what I believe it’s OK that I know that I’ll see him again,” Howell said.

One of the most touching moments of the funeral is when Lewis’s twin brother, Derris, got up to sing.

Their mother sobbed while Derris sang. While the mood was somber there was definitely a feeling of celebration in the air – a celebration of Lewis’s life. The eulogy was given by Mount Zion Baptist Church Pastor Lance Humphrey. Humphrey said everything was going against Lewis – he said Lewis lived in what many consider “the hood” and didn’t go to the best school. But Humphrey said everything about Lewis was an exception to the rule.

“The rule says you go to East High School, you’re supposed to be a drop out. But the exception says I was in it to win it. I carry a 4.0, I was part of the honor society and I was a tutor. How about that?”

Police continue to look for suspects in the case.

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