James “Jim” Stephen Lewis
- August 20, 2022
James “Jim” Stephen Lewis
James (Jim) Stephen Lewis, 73, of Marion, Iowa, passed away Aug. 15, 2022, after a long battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Even in his last weeks, Jim’s humor and love breathed life into all who were blessed to know him.
Jim was born July 27, 1949, to Wayne and Maxine Lewis of Wellman, Iowa. He often shared stories of growing up near his grandparents’ restaurant in downtown Wellman. He and his sister, Nancy, had free reign of the candy case, and he was lovingly called “Jimmy” by patrons, cooks, and servers. Almost daily he’d plop himself at the counter and order a cheeseburger, fries, milkshake and pie. He attended Wellman Elementary School with his lifelong friends, the Godlove and Miller kids. He learned to golf at an early age and played many rounds on the sand greens of the Wellman course, making a hole-in-one at age 12. It was a legendary feat that even made it into the local newspaper. In 1963, his family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and he graduated from Washington High School in 1967. He was an athlete who excelled in sports including football, track and golf. From a young age, and during the throes of his teenage years, he was liked by friends, teachers and coaches because of his quiet kindness.
A story from the past that Jim often told is how he met his wife, Diane. It happened at Washington High School while maneuvering the crowded hallways. He normally walked with his eyes to the ground but one time he looked up and saw a brown-eyed girl looking at him. The next day he scurried to follow the same path to find her and there she was again. So began Jim and Diane’s love story that spanned 54 wonderful years together.
Jim graduated from Ellsworth College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, where he played varsity football and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in teaching in 1972. He later received his Master’s in Educational Administration from Northeast Missouri State University in 1985. Jim and Diane have fond memories of packing up the kids, living in married student housing, meeting other teaching families and “vacationing” in Kirksville for four summers.
Jim devoted his life to bettering the lives of others. As a Resource and Driver’s Education teacher at Kennedy High School for 33 years, he immersed himself in the joys and challenges of educating young people. He was a passionate and gifted teacher who used humor, compassion and wit to inspire even the most reluctant students. He was known for motivating his students in unconventional ways through an atmosphere of laughter, authenticity and gracious love. He invented games like weekly soda pop challenges to motivate students to meet their goals and few left his class without brain-boosting mnemonics for everything from mathematical equations to reading and writing strategies.
In addition to making things fun for the students, he also loved making things fun for the staff. He installed a carnival-sized popcorn machine in the staff lounge which happily enjoyed daily use. The smell of popcorn permeated the hallways and had fellow teachers running to the lounge during the lunch hour. He helped to organize the annual end-of-year parties, along with a continuous flow of games like Boggle and darts. His children remember the parties and knew Dad must be planning something for the staff when he’d bring home a giant jar of pickles that needed to be eaten so he would have a clean jar for the Candy Count Sweepstakes.
Known by many as “Coach Lewis,” Jim was the defensive coordinator of the Kennedy football team. He left such an impression on players and fellow coaches that years after retiring he still received notes, phone calls and “hellos” when he was out and about in town. During his teaching and coaching career, he earned many honors including being inducted into the Kennedy Hall of Fame. Few people know how to make others feel loved while simultaneously teaching them life lessons and having them rolling with laughter. Jim had this gift, and he never let anyone walk away without being touched by his love and motivated to live better
because of it.
One of Jim’s greatest joys was playing a round of golf with his buddies. The golf course was a place to gather and to share life. It was a haven for him. When he was no longer able to golf, he received phone c
alls from h
is friends reporting in their scores and sto
ries of the day. It helped him to endure the constant
challenges of living with ALS. Throughout the years, he competed in a variety of golf competitions. His most memorable (aside from the hole-in-one at age 12) was placing in the Cedar Rapids City Amateur Golf Tournament.
Jim was a loving and selfless father. He rel
ished in spending time with his kids and was known for elaborate treasure hunts and was a master of games and sports. Together he, Diane and the kids took bike rides on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, gardened in the backyard and practiced hitting golf balls into the corn field near their home. His kids remember the years he even constructed an ice-skating rink in the backyard so they could pretend to be figure skaters and hockey champs.
Jim had a heart to help the fatherless. Together, he and Diane opened their hearts and arms to children whom life had hit hard with pain and abandonment. They devoted themselves as adoptive and foster parents to numerous children, adopting 14 kids from South Korea, Guatemala, and the United States. Loving kids from hard places required more than they realized at the start of their adoptive parent journey, but they never gave up on a single child. They loved through their tears, through heartache and with a lot of prayer. Jim led the family with his quiet faith in God and his trust that his Savior Jesus had greater plans than he could see or understand.
Our family is forever grateful to Unity Point Hospice at Home and our Hospice nurse, Tammi, whose loving kindness and exceptional skill taught us how to make many of his last days into good days.
Jim is survived by his loving wife, Diane; children, Brian (Martha) Lewis, Amy (Paul) Schrader, Katie Lewis, Susie (Rob) Lee, Ben Lewis, Joey Lewis, Nicole (Dave) Lewis, Christopher Lewis, Isabelle (Todd) Beyer, Maya (Micole) Renaas, Marcos Lewis, Grace Lewis, Charlie Lewis and Bruce Lewis. He also is survived by 10 grandchildren; Sofi Lewis, Wyatt and Ellie Schrader, Katelyn, Joshua and Evelyn Lee, Owin, Stefan and Alice Renaas, and Baby Beyer. Jim also is survived by his sister, Nancy (Dale) Stout; nieces and nephews; Jamey Stout, Molly (Phil) Tschopp, Jeff (Molly) Stout and Joe (Brook) Stout; and grandnieces and grandnephews, Theo, Zela and Marina Tschopp, Milo and Wren Stout, and Annie and Bella Stout. He also is survived by brothers-in-law, David (Belinda) Downing, Dan (Carol) Downing and Doug Downing; along with nieces-in-law and nephews-in-law and their children, Russ (Meghan) Downing, John (Amanda) Downing, Beth (Gavin) Manes and Max Downing.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Wayne and Maxine Lewis; grandparents, Jim and Ruth Lewis and Ethel Mae and Frank Gillespie; brother, Tommy Lewis; son, Daniel Lewis; and daughter, Erica Lewis.
A private family gathering is planned at Cedar Memorial Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Unity Point Hospice, Kennedy High School or Holt adoption agency.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
“Your perfect will in Your perfect way.”
Well done good and faithful servant