Every morning, students at Parkway Elementary School, in East Meadow, would hop out of their cars and start their day with a greeting from Andre Lewis, a.k.a. “Mr. Andre.” According to Jamie Mack, the school’s principal, Lewis not only knew the children by name, but also chatted with them about their interests.
“He’d be out there in rain — he was out there in snow,” Mack said. “It didn’t matter, he’d be out there to greet the kids.”
Roughly two months ago, Lewis was hospitalized with Covid-19 symptoms. He remained in a hospital for 49 days, during which his health declined until he lost the ability to breathe on his own. He died on May 16 of complications related to the virus. He was 40.
Lewis had diabetes, but his wife, Shamika Parkinson, said he was working on improving his diet and went to the gym several times a week at 6 a.m., before work.
He was always walking, and couldn’t sit still because of his diabetes. “He always said he had to keep moving around or he might fall asleep,” Parkinson added.
Mack created a GoFundMe page the day Lewis died for his wife and their daughter, Tamia Lewis, 12. East Meadow families immediately began donating, and surpassed the page’s initial $2,000 goal overnight. Mack pushed it to $5,000 and then $15,000, which the page has since surpassed.
A comment with one donation, attributed to the Pentrancosta family, read, “We are so grateful for having known Mr. Andre. He greeted our children each day with a smile, gave a thumbs-up in the halls and made them feel safe in school each and every day. He will truly be missed.”
To donate to the GoFundMe page, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/20cf5bsjeo.
Parkinson recalled her husband’s commitment to his family and his passion for meeting and making connections with others. “He took pride in his job, in his career — he was always on time. If anything, I was the late person,” she said. “But he was always on time. And smart — he was very brilliant. He could cover any topic, politics, religion, sports. You name it, he knew it.”
Parkinson said that her husband’s nickname in the family became “the Philosopher” because of his zeal for learning and sharing his knowledge.
Lewis grew up in Springfield Gardens, Queens, and went to Springfield Gardens High School, where he and Parkinson met. He took some classes at Queensborough Community College, where he studied liberal arts. He had a dream of writing a memoir about his childhood in Queens. He had nearly finished it before he died, and Parkinson said she was still organizing excerpts he had typed on his computer and in the Notes application on his phone.
Lewis worked as a traffic enforcement agent with the New York City Police Department for 10 years before becoming a security guard and working at several public schools.
He and Parkinson married in 2016 and moved to Georgia for five months, where he continued working in security. When they came back to New York, they moved to Deer Park. He started his job at Parkway Elementary in the fall of 2018.
Last fall, his contract with Summit Security Services, in Uniondale, came to an end. According to the East Meadow School District’s own contract with the company, that meant that Lewis couldn’t work at Parkway anymore. But the district bent the rules to keep him, according to Patrick Pizzo, the assistant superintendent for business and finance.
“We changed our policy just to get him back,” Pizzo explained. “He was loved by the kids, he was respected by the parents. He was the best security guard we had, and probably the best employee we had.”
“He’s going to be missed greatly,” Principal Mack said. “What I love to look at is the comments that people have written. I could read them and it brings tears to my eyes.”
The school has dedicated its graduation song, “I’m On My Way,” by Phil Collins, and its virtual spring art installation to Lewis.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his mother, Linda Lewis, two brothers and a number of cousins and