Longtime teacher dies after fire in Des Plaines garage

 
 
Updated 12/17/2015 6:43 PM
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  • Ron Lewis

    Ron Lewis Courtesy of Des Plaines Park District

Longtime Des Park District employee Ron Lewis, 52, who also formerly taught at St. Mary School in Buffalo Grove, died Monday from complications caused by the injuries he suffered Nov. 4 in an accidental garage fire at his Des Plaines residence, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Though the medical examiner's report actually refers to the accident as a car explosion, Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax said there has been no evidence that the fire which damaged both the car and the garage was caused by an explosion.

In fact, it remains unknown whether the fire started in the garage or the car, Wax said.

Des Plaines police Thursday said they could provide no further information about the explosion, which remains under investigation.

As Lewis can no longer be interviewed and because no new evidence is likely to be found, the possibility of determining the cause of the fire seems increasingly remote, Wax said.

Lewis died at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he was being treated for thermal and inhalation injuries, the medical examiner's report states.

Carol Jarecki, a former principal at St. Mary School who worked with Lewis in that capacity for six years, said he'd lived in a separate apartment at his father's Des Plaines home.

On the day of the accident, he'd gone into the garage with the stated intention of working on the car, Jarecki said.

Though no one really knows what happened after that, it was commonly believed by his friends and acquaintances that the car exploded, she said.

A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for Lewis' medical bills reached $8,890 before the former science teacher's death this week.

The creator of the GoFundMe page, Jan Garbarini Meyer, wrote that Lewis had been burned over 40 percent of his body.

Garbarini Meyer and other commentators attested to Lewis' being a big influence on the lives of many students during his 25 years at St. Mary School.

Jarecki wholeheartedly agreed.

"He was one great man," Jarecki said. "He was a very quiet man, but a very compassionate man. The kids loved him."

In the weeks after the fire, Lewis had been on a ventilator and received three skin-graft surgeries. But though he was aware of his surroundings and visitors, his prospects for a full recovery never improved significantly, she added.

Lewis was a 1981 graduate of Maine West High School and his father, Bill, was himself a retired teacher at Lane Tech High School in Chicago, Jarecki said.

Lewis had stopped teaching at St. Mary a couple years ago but continued to work in many roles at the Des Plaines Park District, where he's been involved for more than 35 years, Jarecki said.

Visitation for Lewis will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, at Matz Funeral Home, 410 E. Rand Road in Mount Prospect. His family has asked that flowers be omitted.

The funeral procession will start at the funeral home at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, before the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Emily Church, 1400 E. Central Road in Mount Prospect. Interment will be at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines.

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