Rev. Lewis Flowers, 62, Ministers chairman

Austin street to be named in his honor

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By Chinta Strausberg

Contributing Reporter

Still stunned over the death of Westside Ministers Coalition Chairman Rev. Lewis Flowers on Dec. 9, 2012, Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) and Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, said Tuesday that he will be remembered as a "door opener" and an "advocate for the community."

Having known and worked with Rev. Flowers for nearly 20 years, Graham was shocked when her pastor, Rev. Joseph Jones, who heads the Pleasant Ridge Church, announced Flowers' death Sunday from the pulpit.

"Just a couple of weeks ago, Rev. Flowers told me he had been sick. I told him I would be praying for him and asked him how he felt. He looked well but also tired as well," said Graham, recalling her last face-to-face conversation with the popular minister and community activist.

Graham and Bakalis said it was an honor to work with Flowers, who paved the way for numerous community improvements and invaluable new partnerships.

Graham reflected on the time she worked with him on the Plato School project when he was trying to build a community center for Pleasant Ridge Church and sought leases to anchor a building at that church.

"If you didn't know Rev. Flowers, you didn't know the players in the community. He was certainly a major player in Austin," said Graham. "He's gone to be with the Lord. Well done, good and faithful servant. He worked really hard in Austin, and is going to be missed. He was a great community advocate."

Having already initiated plans to dedicate a street sign in honor of Rev. Flowers, Ald. Graham is moving now to make that a reality.

"This was something we had talked about before he had taken ill. A number of people had wanted to honor him and the service he had done with the Westside Ministers Coalition. Little did we know that he would be making his transition so soon," Graham said.

Bakalis met Rev. Flowers 10 years ago. "I was working with Austin High School at the time, and he was also working there in terms of bringing about some changes and reforms, and I had occasion to meet up with him. We struck it up very well from the beginning, and we've been working together ever since," Bakalis said.

Together the two successfully worked on projects involving the Westside Ministers Coalition, especially on one of the small charter schools that went into the Austin High School building, the Austin Business and Entrepreneurialship Academy, a partnership between American Quality Schools and the Westside Ministers Coalition.

They also worked together on the Plato Learning Academy, which has two campuses, one at Harrison and Central for students K-5 and one at Washington and Laramie, for students in grades 6-8.

Flowers was instrumental in these projects, Bakalis said. "Rev. Flowers was very important because he obviously knew the entire Austin community. He was a part of it. I'm from Austin, grew up there and went to Spencer School and Austin High School. We both had a very strong connection to the Austin community. I still go to church in the Austin community at the Greek Orthodox Church on Harrison and Central.

"Rev. Flowers was very instrumental because he knew the community. He knew the political establishment. They knew him very well at the Chicago Board of Education, and they had worked with him on a number of projects, so he was very helpful, not only in opening doors but being an advocate for children and for schools in the Austin community. He was very important," Bakalis said.

"I lost a very, very close friend. I respected him. I liked him. He had a great sense of humor. We used to laugh a great deal together. He would always kid me about not going to church enough. He was just a very good friend. I will miss him.

"He was a man committed to social justice, and I admired him for that," Bakalis added. "He devoted a lot of his time and energy. He didn't get paid for most of the things that he did, but he just did it because he really believed in helping people. I admired him a lot, and I'll miss him a lot. He was a close friend."

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michelle fitzgerald from Chicago  

Posted: December 23rd, 2012 11:40 PM

I will miss you Rev. I hope you are back in St Lucia with my Paul. So happy we got to share that time together....and thanks for making our Loretto hospital wedding so special. xoxo

Dawn from Chicago  

Posted: December 16th, 2012 11:29 PM

Well, from that day forward I did whatever Rev. Flowers told me to do. I went to every meeting and event he said I should be at. I took photos every time he asked. Because I knew he had my best interest at heart, and that he loved me. When I came to his home-going, and I was asked to speak in place of an ill reverend, I thought, that Reverend Flowers, even from Heaven he's done it to me again. He embraced me, and he knew he touched my heart, as he has touched mine. He was family.

Dawn from Chicago  

Posted: December 16th, 2012 11:24 PM

When I joined Austin Weekly News two years ago, I was scared. I didn't know if the West Side community would accept me as the representative of their neighborhood newspaper. At one of the first business meetings I attended, the AAABNA, Reverend Flowers came up to me and he chewed me out. He said, "you never come to my meetings anymore". I told him I was new, and that I promised I would come. Well, I came to the next WMC meeting, only to find that he listed me as the guest speaker.

Susan Banks  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 9:14 AM

I am both stunned and saddened by this news. I met Rev. Flowers last year and though I did not know him very long, he was the only person I felt I could count on in my community, who was really pulling for me in getting my preschool off the ground. He did everything he could to assist me with problems in my neighborhood and was a great motivator for me to hold on to my dreams. Rev. Flowers was a beacon of hope for me and an inspiration. I will truly miss him. My condolences to his family...

Theresa Rayford from Chicago  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 3:16 PM

I will truly miss all of the humor, all of your fatherly advice, all of our military laughs & talks..We all have special memories of you . You will be Remembered I Promise you!

Karen Horton from Chicago  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 2:57 PM

It was such a pleasure knowing such a Giant of a Man for over 20 yrs whom I called my second Father. The thing I loved the most about him was the fact that he gave so much of himself and didn't ask for much in return.He made even the "Lil guy" feel like that he was one of the"Elite". Thank you Rev. for being such an example for all of Mankind. II Tim 4: 7 "You fought a good fight, you finished your course". Now finally take your rest.You'll always have a place in our hearts. The Horton Family

Crystal Overton  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 1:05 PM

I will miss Rev. Flowers' support and advice as a true advocate and warrior for the people.

Ray Easley from Chicago  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 11:48 AM

Rev. Flowers through his years on service has made an impact in the sand that will never be washed away. There is a difference in being committed and being involved. Rev. Flowers was committed, This coalition brings government and community issues to the people. Between the Late Rev. Charlie Murray, Rev. Flowers and I many people have visited the Westside to hear the issues, including President Clinton, U.S. Senators, Mayor Daley as well as others. Rest Rev. Flowers you have paved the way

Sharon Morgan  

Posted: December 11th, 2012 12:00 PM

I'm so sorry to hear about his passing. Rev. Flowers was a tireless worker for the the people of Austin. He will surely be missed. My prayers go out to his family on the loss of a great man.

Steven Givhan  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 12:00 PM

Rev. Flowerds was and remains in my heart one of the deepest friendships I have even known his love of community and his efforts on the local school council and education reform as well is community rebuilding when we met at the Community Workshop on economic development (CWED) and the empowerment zone, Rev flowers as a great advocate for Chicago's communities their is not a person I know that Rev. Flowers did not touch to improve the quality of life for in the West side or South sides of Chicago he cared for all ..my friend and brother in Christ know your work was not in vain your works continue ..- Amen

Minister Vivian Gaulding  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 12:00 PM

I am very grateful to have had the privilege of witnessing his tireless effort in bringing ministers,other leaders and common citizens alike unto unity and accountability. His heart was for the common good of the citizens of the Austin Community and the West side at large.

Anthony Lowery  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 12:00 PM

I'm extremely shocked by the news that Dr. Rev. Flowers made his transiton to the next phase of his spritual journey. He is a tireless champion for justice for all people. He will truly be missed, but his fight continues in the place that he loved the Westside. My prayers are with the Flowers family as we continue to carry out his vision.

James Deanes  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 12:00 PM

I cannot think of anyone who has fought longer or harder for families and particularly children of Austin, than Rev. Flowers.To his wonderful soul mate and family, we miss him and will keep him and your family in our prayers. We say that he worked in the Austin Community, but, his work, support, and influence, was as global as it was local.Rev. Flowers, we owe so much to you, but, God has other work for you to do. We thank him for the time he allowed us to share in your good works. Rest my friend, Rest!!!!!!!!

Kimberly Muhammad  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 12:00 PM

Rest in peace my dear friend. God has call one of the best home. I loved you dearly and steadfast remained a dear friend of mind. Cynthia know that he love you and yours dearly. Rest my friend rest.

James R. Shannon  

Posted: December 9th, 2012 12:00 PM

As a fellow USMC Viet-Nam Veteran and a friend of Rev. Flowers, I concur that the Austin Community lost a valuable Community Warrior for social Justice.

Dawn and Paxton Ferencak  

Posted: December 9th, 2012 12:00 PM

Reverend Flowers took us under his wing and accepted us with his loving generosity. We will always remember his gentle and kind spirit. Our deepest sympathies go out to his beautiful family. With all our love, Dawn and Paxton Ferencak

Michelle Collins  

Posted: December 9th, 2012 12:00 PM

Reverend Lewis Flowers was a committed leader and powerful voice for Austin residents, both young and old. His love for family was heartwarming. And his relentless advocacy for the "least of these" was a blessing beyond measure. I extend my prayers and deepest condolences to his wife Cynthia, the Flowers family and to all of the members of The Westside Minister's Coalition. God has called this faithful Servant to rest. Amen. Michelle Collins

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