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Warren family matriarch killed

89-year-old woman in wheelchair struck in her back by bullet

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Members of the Ruth Lewis family grieve the death of their mother, who was killed when a bullet struck her in the back Sunday evening. They are daughter Andrea Talbott, left, son Robert Lewis and daughter Patricia Mallory, all of Warren.

WARREN — A “pillar of the community” was killed Sunday when a bullet struck her in the back while she visited with family members at a Starlite Drive NW home to plan her son’s funeral.

Ruth “Mama” Lewis, 89, was sitting in her wheelchair in the living room of 3178 Starlite when she was hit.

“We don’t know why she is dead today; we don’t have those answers,” her daughter, Andrea Daniels Talbott, said.

It appears the family matriarch was shot through the window when someone fired at the house, said family members who gathered to mourn her death Monday at her Brier Street SW home.

It is unclear why shots were fired at the house, family said. Police have not released details.

Several 911 calls were placed around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Witnesses heard several shots, five to 10. One caller said a silver vehicle and a white sports utility vehicle were driving erratically toward Southern Boulevard when she heard the shots.

A call placed from inside the home was frantic, as the callers cried out, asking for help for Lewis, who was unconscious and did not appear to be breathing.

“Oh god, oh god,” her granddaughter cried out.

Lewis was in a wheelchair following a stroke and car crash in 2001, but still lit up a room, enjoyed life and had more to give, her family said.

“She was full of life, my mom was full of life,” Patricia Lewis Mallory said. “She managed to smile through all of that hurt. She was in a wheelchair, she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t talk. But she still managed to show that beautiful smile.”

A mother of eight, her grandkids, great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids number in the range of 150, her daughters said. With the birth of her great-great-grandson 11 years ago, Ruth Lewis was the matriarch of five generations and known to all as “Mama,” family members said.

Active in the church as an evangelist and in politics, Ruth also was an entrepreneur.

She and late husband Robert Lewis founded R&R BBQ, and she had the beauty shop Magic Mirror on Niles Road. She worked at Packard Electric for 15 years and worked in construction.

“She was a strong, strong woman,” Lewis Mallory said. “She taught us to be strong.”

Shinece Honzu, 16, said Ruth Lewis was the “greatest grandmother” who taught all of the children and grandchildren about respect. She showed her love with a smile, Honzu said.

Shachara Lewis, 30, said she encouraged the family members to start their own businesses.

“She motivated all of us,” Shachara Lewis said. “She showed us that we can be something; as black people, she taught us to never give up and don’t allow people to stereotype us. She taught us to be our own bosses. She is always there with you, spiritually, even when she wasn’t there in person.”

Family members cried, prayed and laughed as they remembered “Mama” Monday in her home.

“She always reached out to everybody; she never turned anyone down,” her son, Robert Lewis Jr., said. “If she couldn’t do it, she would find someone who could.”

She was a “pillar of the community,” Lewis Mallory said.

“If people didn’t have a place to go, she would take them in. When someone said they didn’t have any food and were hungry, she fed them … when they needed a prayer, she prayed with them. When people had children with problems, they would come to her and ask her how to deal with it. And she would help them with the problems.”

Lewis Jr. said the family wants justice — they “want it now.”

“I hear people say she had a long life, but she wasn’t done with her life. She still was living her life. I just feel cheated. Someone cheated my mom out of the rest of her life. It wasn’t her time because when it is your time, you lay down and you go of natural causes. Not from someone taking your life,” Lewis Mallory said.

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