Former Spring Lake Park junior high school principal dies

Harold (Hal) Lewis, 86, who served as principal at what was once Spring Lake Park Junior High School, has died.

Halbert Lewis
Harold Lewis

A longtime resident of Spring Lake Park, Lewis was born July, 4, 1926 and died Oct. 22 from colon cancer.

Lewis worked in the SLP District 16 starting in 1962 to the early 1990s. The last three years of his tenure, he served as principal at the former Westwood Junior High.

“He was a solid citizen in the community,” said Chris Huber, former District 16 superintendent of Lewis’ tenure at the district. “He was very committed to Spring Lake Park as a community and to the school system.”

Huber said he believes Lewis was the first junior high principal to serve in the district.

Lewis also served as a district governor for Lions Club International.

He was proud of his prestigious Lions role as evidenced by his license plates PDG5M7, said his son Gary Lewis.

The PDG stood for past district governor of 5M7, the district of which the Spring Lake Park Lions Club is part.

The younger Lewis recalls his father during pre-computer times preparing students for the upcoming school year.

“He scheduled them by hand,” Lewis said. “I remember him spending entire summers deciding who’s going to what class (and) when.”

In Gary’s younger years, his father got him a job as a custodian in District 16.

“When the school was actually empty, my dad loved to whistle,” Gary said. “I swear to God, if he’s going to haunt any place, it would be at the school. I could hear him come from miles away because I could hear the echo.”

Dean Sabby first met Lewis when Sabby was hired as a guidance counselor at Westwood Junior High.

“He loved the job as a principal,” Sabby said. “He did a good job for many, many years, and he loved the kids.”

In the early 1980s Sabby invited Lewis to serve on the board of directors at what was known at the time as Central Center for Family Resources (now Lee Carlson Center for Mental Health & Well-Being). Lewis continued serving for about 20 years.

“He was a very good, caring person, always willing to give his time to help others,” Sabby said.

Longtime District 16 School Boardmember Marilynn Forsberg had known Lewis since she started serving on the school board in 1982.

“He was one of the pioneers in this district,” she said. “He lived through the ‘65 tornado when kids got shuffled around everywhere (to different buildings). That was a huge effort.”

Lewis and his late wife, Elizabeth, were members of Fridley United Methodist Church for nearly 40 years.

“He was always a gentleman in the best sense of the word – always friendly,” said Rev. Deb Walkes of the United Methodist Church.

Lewis is preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Carol. In addition to a son, Gary (Lynn), he is survived by two grandchildren, Catherine and Samuel (Nicole); and three great grandchildren, Lindsay, Sydney and Jackson.

Services took place Oct. 26 at Fridley United Methodist Church. Interment was at Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]