L. Vinmar Lewis in the classroom at St. John Neumann High School, where he taught math for 30 years.
Courtesy of the family
L. Vinmar Lewis in the classroom at St. John Neumann High School, where he taught math for 30 years.

L. Vinmar Lewis, 73, of East Mount Airy, a mathematics educator and property manager, died Friday, Dec. 29, of cancer at Abington Hospital.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Lewis grew up with two siblings in Germantown and graduated in 1962 from Germantown High School. He excelled in sports, and played on the high school's football, baseball, and basketball teams.

In 1963, Mr. Lewis enrolled in what is now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. A careful and methodical thinker, he was drawn to the fields of mathematics and physics, in which he majored, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1967. He also played sports and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity while at the university.

"Excellence was his motto," said his longtime friend Lorraine Poole-Naranjo.

L. Vinmar Lewis
Courtesy of the family
L. Vinmar Lewis

In 1970, Mr. Lewis began a long career teaching basic and advanced mathematics at St. John Neumann High School, a parochial high school in Philadelphia. Known to students as "Mr. Lew," he was the only African American teacher at the school for most of his tenure, said Poole-Naranjo.

When word spread about Mr. Lewis's death, his former students posted on Facebook:

John Yonny Varano: RIP, Mr. Lew!! Best algebra teacher ever!

Rick Baccare: One of my favorite teachers, always cool, made learning so much fun! R.I.P buddy!

In addition to teaching math, Mr. Lewis developed what he called "the Vinmar Method," a life skills class at Neumann in which he taught how to communicate effectively and solve problems in a positive manner.

His students included Kevin Dougherty, now a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice.

Mr. Lewis was promoted to chair of the Neumann mathematics department. His duties included selecting textbooks and developing the math curriculum. In 2000, Mr. Lewis retired after 30 years of service to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In 2004, after Mr. Lewis had left the all-male school, it merged with the all-female St. Maria Goretti to become SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School in South Philadelphia.

Mr. Lewis pursued a second career as a businessman. He studied business administration at La Salle University School of Business in the 1970s and went into real estate. He purchased several rental properties in Mount Airy and Germantown, and managed and maintained them until slowed by health problems last year.

Mr. Lewis was known to family and friends as a highly ethical person who truly cared about others. Friends said he was the type of person who would be there for them in times of need.

He personified the saying, "Don't talk about it, be about it!" Poole-Naranjo said.

"Vinmar had a God-given gift for solving problems," said Poole-Naranjo, who met Mr. Lewis through her brother and knew him for decades.  "If he saw something that needed to be done, he did it.

"We were good friends since I was 19," she said. "He was always there for me, through the trials and tribulations of my life. Vinmar was a true friend and a gentleman among men who will be greatly missed."

Mr. Lewis is survived by niece Kelly Gerald, nephew Edward Henry Gerald, and special friend Valerie Ransom.

A viewing starting at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 12, will be followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 5421 Germantown Ave.  Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery, Willow Grove.