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Faces of Franklin

How A Crossing Guard And A Community Became A Family

Article by Karen Creason

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

According to his daughter, Katita McCullough, Lewis McLemore has always been a people person. Katita proudly describes her father as someone who has never met a stranger and is always bright, happy and has a positive attitude. Whether through his work at the Franklin Flower Shop, the Caster Knott department store, or driving buses for Wilson County, 84 years young, Mr. Lewis has always been active until recently.

His enthusiasm for social interactions, his selfless dedication to helping others, and his willingness to drive people when the need arises have earned Lewis the nickname “Mr. Uber.” With roots deeply planted in Franklin, Mr. Lewis was determined to continue making a positive impact even in retirement. Following the passing of his wife, his profound love for children and people led him to become the school crossing guard in the Westhaven community. This role suited him perfectly, benefiting not only the children but also their families.

For many years, Mr. Lewis has been diligent in keeping the school children of Westhaven safe. So it came as a profound shock when he was noticeably absent one early September morning. The community learned Mr. Lewis suffered a stroke, leaving both the children and their parents missing his warm presence.  

While ensuring the children's safety was his primary responsibility, his daily display of love and thoughtfulness for the kids and parents was something more. Six-year-old Grace Uecker shares, “Mr. Lewis is sweet and he makes sure we don’t get crashed into by cars. He always hugged me when I crossed the street.” Underscoring the positive influence Mr. Lewis has on the community, parent Heather Pereyra explains, ”Your day isn’t complete until you see him. He is always so encouraging with a ‘You got this’ or ‘Good to see you’. Even parents who don’t have kids in the school anymore still go to the crosswalk to visit Mr. Lewis.” Fourth-grade student, Tennyson Uecker also shares similar sentiments. “Mr. Lewis has a great attitude - always smiling, laughing, and having a good time. Mr. Lewis made us laugh too!“ 

In return, parents and children expressed their appreciation by decorating the crosswalk each year with heartfelt chalked messages for Mr. Lewis' birthday. They also hosted birthday parties in their homes for him. Mr. Lewis isn't just a crossing guard, he is family. He refers to the school children as his "kids," and the community considers him their "grandfather."

Currently, Mr. Lewis is in the process of recuperating. Adjusting during this period of limited mobility and not being able to extend his helping hand to others poses a considerable challenge. But Mr. Lewis is still continuing to bring people together. The Westhaven community family has grown to now include Mr. Lewis’ family including his three children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

 "The continued prayers and visits truly lift his spirits," says Katita.  What now brings a smile to Mr. Lewis's face are the cards, videos, and visits from his beloved Westhaven kids and parents. Elise Uecker summed it up beautifully, saying, "He truly is a gift to others around him and is very much missed each day." Reflecting on his impact, Westhaven parent Derick Uecker adds, "If you have met Mr. Lewis, you have met true love. He possesses an incredible heart for all of us and a passion for our children that I've NEVER seen before. We have been so lucky."

“Mr. Lewis told me ‘Save my corner. I’m coming back!’” states Heather. Continuing she adds, “Even in the pouring rain, Mr. Lewis has been a shining light.” The community now hopes that the rainy days are behind him and that Mr. Lewis will fully recover and return to keeping his Westhaven family safe.