My goal was helping youngsters
Leroy “Nibs” Lewis adopted a child at 60. Five years later he celebrated as the government launched Mirrors, the mentorship programme he had spent ten years trying to set up.
The 75-year-old former footballer and PHC president is well known for his commitment to Bermuda’s youth.
“I kept the boys in line,” said Mr Lewis, who coached the Warwick club in the ’80s and ’90s. “One day, some of the players came to me and said, ‘Look coach, my friends are good kids but they are going the wrong way.
“‘We want to know if you can do something about them’.”
Mr Lewis gathered a bunch of like-minded sportsmen who were friends — Kenny Bascome, Calvin “Bummy” Symonds, Eldon Raynor and Rudolph Lawrence — and met with his doctor, former premier Ewart Brown.
The then Opposition MP connected them with American youth expert Mark Charley. Mirrors launched in 2007.
“We started off with ten boys,” said Mr Lewis. “Then it grew from there. Those original boys are all doing well in the community.”
It was this same care for young people that led him to adopt a baby boy 15 years ago.
“My wife Anternette used to work with Family Services,” said Mr Lewis. “Back in 2002, she was struggling to place a two-month-old baby called Jason.
“She said, ‘I can’t get anyone to take this child, so we will take him for three months’.”
Mrs Lewis was then 40. Together, they decided to give Jason a permanent home. A year later, Leroy Jr was born.
“[Jason] had already missed out once on being part of a family,” said Mr Lewis, who also has a 54-year-old son, Eversley. “We didn’t want him to miss out twice.”
He and his wife met at PHC. She managed a restaurant at the club, while he was its president. They married 18 years ago.
“That was before she became a social worker,” said Mr Lewis. “She seemed a very beautiful and smart lady for her age. Parenting at my age is a blessing. I feel more prepared this time around. Of course, in this day and age, I do worry about where my sons are when something happens in the community.”
Both Jason, 15, and LJ, 13, will be studying in Britain in September, the latter at West Ham United International Academy.
Eversley, 54, is an assistant pastor at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship.
Mr Lewis grew up on Princess Street in Hamilton, the oldest of nine children.
His father, Leroy, was a carpenter; his mother, Mary, was a maid at the Bermudiana Hotel.
He gained his nickname while a student at Pembroke’s Central School.
“I was really skinny when I was a kid,” he said. “The kids said I was skinny like a pen nib.”
Mr Lewis and three of his brothers — Eversley, Fred and Malcolm — ended up playing football. He thinks it is because they were forced to play on the street.
“We used to play all kinds of sports on the street including football,” he said. “We had to dodge traffic.
“We also played on a nearby piece of land owned by the Young Men’s Social Club. The hall is there now.
“There would be 40 children playing at times. When you have that many kids, you had to have some strength to withstand those tackles and bumps. A lot of us turned out to be good sportsmen.”
He started playing with PHC at 14.
“I won a lot of medals,” he said. “But I don’t have any any more. I was stupid and gave them away to people, mostly girls.”
At 19 he went for a trial at Fulham Football Club in London but his legs were not strong enough.
“They suggested I go to an amateur club to strengthen them,” he said. “There was no central heating.
“The field was muddy, and I ran out of money playing for an amateur club. I came back to Bermuda within two months.”
Eversley and Fred had better luck overseas, earning a place with Scotland’s Aberdeen Football Club and the North American Soccer League, respectively.
“All my brothers played with the Young Men’s Social Club,” said Mr Lewis. “That made for some ribbing. I was the only one who played for PHC.”
He worked his way up through the ranks as team captain, coach, then secretary. He was president for 12 years and stepped down in 1995.
Mr Lewis was inducted into the PHC Hall of Fame in 2013. He is also heavily involved with the Bermuda Football Association and is today an honorary vice-president.
He was one of several footballers who won a silver medal for Bermuda at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967. The Corporation of Hamilton and Imagine Bermuda hosted a reception in their honour this month.
“The behaviour you see today at football games is terrible,” Mr Lewis said.
“When we were kids our parents didn’t have telephones, but if we misbehaved in school they knew about it before we got home.”
He is proud to have found scholarships for several sportsmen including Arnold Manders, Maceo Dill and Cory Hill.
Outside of sport, he worked for 41 years for Gosling’s, as a road salesman.
“I retired three years ago,” said Mr Lewis. “Normally, they retire people at 65, but they let me stay on for a few years.”
He remains active. At least five times a week, he walks the length of Shelly Bay Beach, twice, and then runs up and down a couple of hills.
“My health is pretty good,” he said. “I’m looking for a job right now. I need something to keep busy with so my wife doesn’t come home and find me asleep in my chair.”
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