Columbia man killed in Tuesday highway crash

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | 6:58 p.m. CDT; updated 8:28 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 22, 2009

COLUMBIA — A 63-year-old Columbia man was killed in a head-on collision Tuesday morning in Monroe County.

Gerald Lewis, known by friends as Jerry, was pronounced dead on the scene six miles east of Paris Road on Highway 24, according to a crash report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The three-vehicle collision occurred at 8:25 a.m.

Lewis has lived in Oak Towers, a public housing retirement community, for just more than three years. He was a resident representative on the Columbia Housing Authority’s formal hearing panel, housing authority CEO Phil Steinhaus said.

“I really enjoyed working with him. He cared a lot for the other residents that lived in public housing,” he said. “He always had a smile on his face and he always had a joke to tell.”

Steinhaus said Lewis was always telling people he was the “real” Jerry Lewis and, when asked if he wanted a drink, Lewis would ask for a “hobo’s highball,” which is just a glass of water. Lewis enjoyed walking everywhere, Steinhaus said.

As a veteran, Lewis always made a point of thanking veterans he met, Steinhaus said.

Claire Slama, resident coordinator for the housing authority, met Lewis in 2006. He was her first client as a social worker. She emphasized how much he cared for other people.

“He was a really sweet guy,” she said. “When other people in the building were sick in the hospital, he would visit them and take them a card.”

Slama said Lewis wanted to make sure people weren’t lonely and that they were taken care of. He knew someone in Iowa that was incarcerated that he visited every two months. He would also call and send them letters.

“He was willing to do anything for anybody,” Slama said.

According to reports, the fatal accident occurred when a westbound 2003 Chevrolet crossed the center line, hitting a 1991 Ford and continued driving in the eastbound lane. The Chevrolet then hit Lewis head-on in his 1994 Ford.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol crash report stated that the driver of the Chevrolet, Patsy Rice, 44, was taken to the Moberly Regional Hospital with serious injuries and the driver of the 1991 Ford, Erica Keeling, 16, was not injured.  All were wearing seat belts.

Sergeant Brent Bernhardt, public information officer for Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop B, said it is unknown why Rice crossed the center line.

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Charles Dudley Jr July 22, 2009 | 7:33 p.m.

I knew Jerry and he will be missed by alot of us who knew him on the Columbia Housing Authority Resident Advisory Board (R.A.B.).

R.I.P. Jerry you will be dearly missed.

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