When Herman Lew died suddenly and unexpectedly driving home from karate a week ago Saturday, word spread quickly, and people naturally were stunned. It wasn’t only that he was young, it was that he was so full of life. Even if you only knew him as a neighbor who drove a convertible and had a ready smile, you could sense his vitality. Lew directed the undergraduate film and video program at City College of New York and was a cinematographer in his own right. His wife, Janice Yamanaka, designed the original Baristanet website, in 2004. She and their three children survive him. They were longtime residents of Glen Ridge.
Hundreds of friends and neighbors showed up for a memorial service Sunday afternoon at the Glen Ridge Women’s Club, and the same remarks were heard over and over again. It was tragic. A shock. It was amazing, people said, how much the girl’s lacrosse team had pulled together to support Herman’s daughter, Galen Lew, a star midfielder on team: How they spread the word, coordinated food for the event. Even people who had no use for organized sports had to acknowledge it. The mourners, people noticed, represented the artsy side of the town and the jock side of town, all of which were present in Herman, the family, and indeed the town.
It was remarkable. People had hightailed it back from weddings and college visits and long bike rides to make the event. People who said they could not normally bear funerals forced themselves to come. People greeted each other who hadn’t seen each other since their children — now in college and beyond — had scabbed knees and played in the streets. Sometimes it was hard to remember names, or recognize old neighbors with different hairdos, but it there was a sense of belonging nonetheless. Say what you want about small town, this is one thing that small towns do, and do well.
RIP Herman Lew, and much comfort to those who loved you.