Memorial created 04-9-2006 by
Jerry "Grant" Lewis
December 19 1979 - January 17 2006
Jerry "Grant" Lewis
Jerry "Grant" Lewis was born on December 19, 1979 at Rolla, Mo and departed this life on Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at his parents' home in Licking, MO making his age 26 years and 29 days. Grant is survived by his parents, Jerry and Linda Lewis of Licking, 1 brother, Blake, and 2 sisters, Ashton and MaKayla, all of the home. His surviving grandparents are Charles A. Lewis of Licking and Carol (Fisher) McNew and her husband, Roy, of Winona, MO. Grant also left behind many aunts, uncles, cousins, foster siblings and hundreds of friends from across the nation. Grant was preceded in death by his Grandfather, L.R. (Roy) Fisher, Grandmother, Jean Lewis, his uncle, Roger Fisher and 4 infant cousins. Grant was baptized in his preteen years and was a member of New Life Freewill Baptist church in Licking.
Grant attended Licking Schools from the 3rd grade and was a 1998 graduate of Licking High School. At home in Licking, Grant was not "the kid with AIDS", but just "Grant Lewis". He loved his family and friends and cherished every moment of the time that was spent with them, laughing, being mischievious and occassionally getting into a little trouble. Even in the last few days and hours of his life he called on his friends and family all hours of the day and night to just come, sit and be with him. It was from them that he drew his strength and will to live and survive.
As a toddler and small child Grant amazed and amused everone with his intelligence and antics. He spent many memorable hours with his much loved Grandpa Fisher, talking with the guys over coffee and "checking on the cows".
Grant was born with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder, and became infected with HIV at the age of 2 through the use of blood products that were used to control his bleeding episodes. At the age of 11, Grant learned that he was infected with HIV and began a journey that changed not only his life, but the lives of thousands of others. It was at this age that he learned and experienced first hand, prejuidice and discrimination, but he also learned about acceptance, compassion and respect. Grant learned the value of life and friendships at an early age and taught it to others.
At 12, Grant became an icon as an activist for people living with HIV/AIDS. He began educating others by speaking to local schools, churches and groups about living with the disease. By the age of 13, Grant was speaking out nationally about the disease along with issues of discrimination and compassion. It was at this time that he was also introduced to politics when he was asked to speak at a senate hearing at at our nation's capitol in Washington D.C. regarding Ryan White funding for people living with HIV/AIDS. Two years later he testified at the National Institute of Medicine hearings on the safety of our nation's blood supply. From 1994 until 1999, Grant was active on Capitol Hill lobbying for a safer blood supply and government compensation for the estimated 10,000 persons in the United States whith hemophilia who were infected with HIV during the early years of the disease. Today, he is still perceived in the hemophilia community as a true warrior for justice.
Grant was an experimental pediatric HIV drugs research patient at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD for 5 years and he was the first adolescent in the world to introduce one of the new HIV protease inhibitor drugs into his body.
In 1993 Grant was invited to Milwaukee, WI to attend the first session of Camp Heartland, the nation's largest camp for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. In 1994 Grant was a member of Camp Heartland's first Journey of Hope AIDS Awareness Tour that traveled from New York City to Florida's Disney World speaking to high schools, colleges, churches and businesses along the way. He also appeared in the CBS documentary movie, "Angelie's Secret", a movie about children of Camp Heartland who were making a decision reagrding the disclosure of their HIV status in their communities. At the age of 16, Grant became a counselor at the camp.
It was at the National Institutes of Health and Camp Heartland that Grant met hundreds of other kids who were also living with HIV and began his "other life" outside of Licking, MO. Through his experiences here he learned that there is always something worse that one could be living with. Upon one of his return visits to the National Institutes of Health Grant told his mother, "I know that God wanted me to have something and I'm sure glad it is AIDS instead of cancer".
Grant was invited to make several appearances on the Phil Donahue, Montel Williams, Jenny Jones and Maury Povich shows and he was also the subject of a feature story along with Magic Johnson and Greg Louganis on an ESPN segment about sports and HIV.
Grant quickly became a national hero to many young people across the country as he traveled from state to state speaking and teaching others about HIV/AIDS. He often received letters from those who met him telling him how much he was respected and how his courage and compassion had changed their lives. Grant never saw himself as a hero and never wanted to be treated special. He just knew that he had a job to do and did it well.
In 1994 after a discrimination incident involving Grant visiting a friend's school in St.Louis, a group of his friends were inspired to help Grant in his mission to educate others about the disease. A decision was made to form a peer education team called A.N.G.E.L.S., an acronym for "AIDS Needs Greater Education, Love and Support". This small group of teens, along with Grant, worked endlessly to make people aware of all aspects of the disease.
There were many fun, exciting and memorable times on the road, but Grant was always glad to be home and just be "Grant Lewis from Licking", not "Grant Lewis, the boy with AIDS". Even though he had the opportunity to experience things and places that are only dreams for most people, he said many times that he would give it all back just to be free from the disease. He never wanted, expected or asked for sympathy or a shoulder to cry one even when there were times when others wanted to do so. He lived his life to the fullest. He knew he had a job to do and did it well without hesitation, complaints or worry.
Grant loved the St.Louis Cardinals, the Rams, the Chiefs, Nascar racing and the many hours he spent at the golf course, even when his physical strength was pretty low. He never met a stranger and was always quick and straight-forward in letting you know his opinions and beliefs. Grant honored his friendships the most and said many times that "he had the best friends that anyone could ever have and that he knew they would always be by his side".
Grant's presence will be deeply missed by all who knew him but the spirit of his strength, courage and the desire to live will never be forgotten. His heart-warming smile, his blue eyes, his sense of humor and the most sincere laugh one has ever heard will forever remain etched in everyone's hearts and minds.
Boy Who Crusaded for AIDS Education Dies in Texas County
by: Melissa Yeager, KY3 News
January 18, 2006
LICKING, Mo - A boy who helped people in the Ozarks put a face on the AIDS crisis in its early years died on Tuesday morning. Grant Lewis was 26 years old.
Grant had hemophilia, a disease that causes blood not to clot properly. He contracted AIDS from using blood products.
In 1992, Grant quit his school basketball team so the team could keep playing. Parents of competing players kept their kids off the court, fearing they would contract AIDS if they came into contact with Grant.
After that, Grant and his mother, Linda, became timeless advocates for AIDS education, testifying in Washington, D.C., and appearing across the coutry to raise awareness among children and adults.
Grant also participated in breakthrough clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, testing the drug cocktails that today are standard treatment for AIDS patients.
Grant passed away on Tuesday morning at his parents' home surrounded by family and friends. Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday at 2 at New Harmony Baptist Church in Salem. A visitation is from 6 to 8 on Friday at Evans Funeral Home in Houston. His parents also plan to have a larger memorial service to honor Grant's contribution in raising AIDS awareness.
Over 350 people were in attendance at funeral services for Grant Lewis on Saturday, January 21, 2006 at New Harmony Baptist Church, Salem, MO. Services were under the direction of Evans Funeral Home of Houston, MO. Officiating the ceremony were Reverend David Brawley of Lebanon, MO, Richard Vickers of Salem, MO and Neil Willenson, Founder of Camp Heartland. Burial was at Craddock Cemetery, Licking, MO
Music: Safe In the Arms of Jesus
I Can Only Imagine and
How Far is Heaven
Jake Murphy, Tim Lewis, Derek Dawson,
Derrick Wells, Robby Lane, Andre Bland, Matt Ross, Chris Medlock and David Thompson
A memorial celebration to honor the life of Grant was held on Monday, February 6, 2006 at Licking High School's Sherman Fieldhouse.
In lieu of flowers, a request for contributions be sent to:
Grant Lewis - Camp Heartland Fund
1845 N. Farwell Ave. Suite 310
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Grant Lewis Fund
New Harmony Baptist Church
Sign written on a business window in our small town on the day of his funeral.
Grant Lewis' funeral brings out heartfelt tributes
By David Catanese, KY3 News
January 22, 2006
SALEM, Mo - A man who put an early face on the fight against AIDS in the Ozarks was laid to rest on Saturday. Grant Lewis became best known in the early 90's, when parents wouldn't allow their kids to play basketball against his Licking school team because he had AIDS, contracted at age 2 from tainted blood products. Lewis died on Tuesday at the age of 26. Family and friends came together to honor his life and legacy on Saturday.
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