“Geneva College Remembers Brandon Lewis at Memorial”
A perspective by Van Zanic, sports information director
Some of the students, faculty and friends gathered at Geneva College’s Metheny Fieldhouse on Wednesday morning never knew Brandon Lewis. Others knew him very well. Brandon spent only one year on Geneva College’s campus back in 2005 where he had been recruited to play football for the Golden Tornadoes. Despite his short stay on campus, Brandon Lewis made a major impact on his teammates, classmates, coaches and professors.
On Wednesday morning, almost 1,500 people gathered into the same gymnasium that Brandon first visited as a football recruit four years earlier. They were there to celebrate his life and mourn his passing.
After a brave four-year battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia, Brandon went to be with the Lord on January 2. He'd had two bone marrow transplants, numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and his pain was finally gone. Although Brandon’s death was a tremendous loss to family and friends, the Geneva College memorial service focused on the life and love that Brandon Lewis offered throughout his fight.
As teammates spoke about memories of Brandon, and coaches Mike Pinchotti and Geno DeMarco recalled the days spent with their lost brother, it became evident to all in attendance that Brandon made a great impact on this small campus. “He loved Geneva College,” said Pinchotti about Brandon. “Not the buildings, not the classrooms and not the dorm rooms. When he spoke about Geneva College, he spoke about the people. The people are what make this place special.”
Pinchotti continued to give examples of how Brandon had an innate ability to connect with people, both in everyday life and on special occasions. “When visiting Steelers training camp this past summer,” Pinchotti explained. “It was all about Brandon and his mission to get the autograph of Troy Polamalu, his favorite player. Not only did he manage to get the autograph, but he managed to make a new friend. So much so that during the next weeks and months of therapy, Palamalu would talk with him and pray with him.”
Geno DeMarco, Geneva’s head football coach for the past 16 years, presented a pair of autographed Geneva football jerseys to two men who had made a great impact on Brandon’s Life. Bill Somko, the assistant fire chief in Circleville, where Brandon also worked as a volunteer, and Brandon’s position coach at Norwin High School, Joe Hart, both attended the memorial service. The jerseys that Coach DeMarco presented were signed by friends, teammates and classmates at the largest blood drive in Geneva College history, held in honor of Brandon.
Decked out in Brandon’s old #84 Geneva football jersey, Coach DeMarco also took a moment to recognize Brandon’s sister Britney, who was also at the memorial service. He presented Britney with over 70 cards of well wishes from Geneva College students at the blood drive. “Many of these cards came from people who never knew Brandon but were willing to extend love and support to him and his family,” said DeMarco. “That kind of unconditional love is what makes this college a special place.”
Brandon Lewis fought the good fight and in the process affected the lives of hundreds of friends on Geneva College’s campus. On Wednesday morning the memorial service that mourned the loss of a loved one turned into a celebration of life for someone whose legacy will live on forever. Geneva College’s faculty chair Dean Smith summed up the morning with his description of a young man who finished well. “Much like the football drills he used to take part in that demanded he and his teammates run through the line, Brandon Lewis ran through the of adversity and finished well.”
Click on the images above to watch local news coverage from the memorial service.
Geneva College’s Center for Urban Biblical Ministry (CUBM) in Pittsburgh educates urban students for effective service in their local communities.