Boston’s Biggest Funeral Remembers Celtics’ Lewis

From Newsday

Reggie Lewis’ final journey through his adopted hometown began Monday morning, more than five hours before his funeral. A Boston policeman said that when he reported for duty at 7:45 a.m., about 100 youngsters were waiting in the doorway of Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena--where Lewis starred as a collegian--to make sure to see their hero.

The trip ended in Section 43 of Forest Hills Cemetery, on the southwest edge of Franklin Park, where the casket bearing the 27-year-old Boston Celtic captain was lowered into the ground.

Lewis died a week ago Tuesday after collapsing while shooting baskets at Brandeis University. The autopsy report still is pending.


More than 12,000 filed into Matthews Arena for the viewing. About 7,000 were able to stay in the arena for the two-hour service. The rest stayed outside and listened on loudspeakers, and several thousand more lined the five-mile cortege route. The service was carried live on local television and radio stations. The Bostonian Society, a private historical society, said the funeral was the largest ever held in the city.

“The way Reggie was,” said Dexter Jenkins, who followed Lewis to the Northeastern basketball team, “if he saw all those people out there (on the viewing line), he would stand there and talk to all of them. Death says a lot about you, about how you lived your life.”

The most moving tributes came from his family.

Keith Motley spoke on behalf of Donna Lewis and urged the crowd to give Lewis “the standing ovation that meant so much to him.” They did, for a full minute.

And Rev. Peter Gomes, a professor and minister at Harvard, read one last tribute from Lewis’ mother, Peggy Ritch, which ended: “I saw you live, I did not see you die. I only knew you one way, and did not say goodby.”