Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oceanway Middle School Pays Tribute to 'Granny Bear'; A Part of the School's Media Center Is Named in Her Honor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oceanway Middle School Pays Tribute to 'Granny Bear'; A Part of the School's Media Center Is Named in Her Honor

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

She was known as "Mama Oceanway" because of her legendary status in the North Jacksonville community.

She was called "Granny Bear" because she was a fixture at the former Oceanway Seventh-Grade Center, attending her grandson's athletic games and even traveling on the bus with the baseball team.

The late Mary Lewis also was a voracious reader and community columnist. And though she didn't live long enough to see it built, part of Oceanway Middle School's media center has been named for the diminutive white-haired matriarch.

Recently, "Granny Bear's Reading Corner" was dedicated at Oceanway Middle School on what would have been her 101st birthday. A commemorative plaque, comfortable chair and potted palm mark the spot.

A group of Northside leaders turned out to remember the woman credited with getting her neighborhood's first elementary school, public health clinic, volunteer fire department, Girl Scout troop, community center and First Coast High School.

Calling the community a special place, former Mayor Jake Godbold said the "whole theme of this celebration is how hard she worked." Other attendees included former Councilmen Max Leggett and Warren Alvarez, School Board member Vicki Drake and past member Harry Wagoner, business leaders, friends and family, including her granddaughter, State Attorney Angela Corey.

Lewis' daughter, Lorraine Corey, and Ray Moore, who has a State Farm Insurance office in Oceanway, approached Principal John Cochran with the idea of honoring Lewis.

"I thought it was a great idea," Cochran said. "Mary touched many people's hearts, and it was an honor to have known her."

Lewis, who died in 1995, loved reading to kids, he said.

At age 8 in 1916, the Syrian native came to the rural area of Oceanway not knowing a word of English, but quickly adapted. Most of her time was spent behind the scenes raising funds for school supplies or lining up speakers for PTA devotionals.

In a 1988 Jacksonville Journal interview, Lewis said she would go to School Board meetings in the 1940s and lobby superintendent Daniel Boyd "to throw your weight around for us. …

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