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Joseph Lewinger: Educator from Garden City South brought out the best in people

Joseph Lewinger, 42, spent 20 years at The

Joseph Lewinger, 42, spent 20 years at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, Queens.   Credit: Courtesy of the Lewinger family

Joseph Lewinger was known as the calm, even-keeled guy who wasn't easily rattled and always put his family and community first.

But Lewinger jumped up and down — fists in the air —when The Mary Louis Academy girls varsity team knocked powerhouse Christ the King off of its Catholic girls basketball championship run.

"He was just so passionate and motivated for that team," said friend Billy Schoeffel, 46, of Garden City South. "He was so easygoing until you saw him at one of those playoff games." 

Lewinger, 42, spent 20 years rising through the ranks at the Catholic institution: first as girls basketball coach, then athletic director and most recently assistant principal at the school in Jamaica Estates, Queens. 

The married father of three from Garden City South was a Franklin Square school board trustee for five years, serving as board president in 2016. He died April 4 after weeks fighting a coronavirus-related illness. 

"Joe was the definition of a family man," said Schoeffel, who has fond memories of bringing their daughters to Mets games and concerts. "He loved his wife more than anything — they just had a special relationship. He put family and community above his own interests always." 

As a Franklin Square school board trustee, Lewinger helped support the introduction of the district’s prekindergarten program and helped improve many other programs and resources for the district's students, teachers and staff, officials said.

Fellow trustee William Leder said Lewinger was motivated to serve his school district particularly after the support teachers and staff showed his daughter during her cancer treatment.

Friends and family remembered Lewinger as a constant presence at barbecues, Christmas parties and school events.

"He always made you feel loved," said Elli Ehrenkranz, 47, a longtime family friend and teacher in the district.

Ken Ehrenkranz, 49, also a teacher in the district, said Lewinger "brought out the best in people." 

"We are devastated. It was an honor to have him in our lives as long as we did," Ehrenkranz said. 

"The outpouring from family and friends, and so many of Joe's current and former students that have shared their memories, photos and videos of their special times with their beloved teacher/coach/assistant principal is a testament to the truly amazing impact Joe made on everyone he met," his family said in a statement.

"While my children cannot be with you during this sad time, know that they still feel your love and the embrace of your arms around them. Please take care of yourselves and your families." 

In addition to his wife, Maura, and their three children, Madison, Jack and Maeve, Lewinger is survived by his parents, Joseph and Rosemarie Lewinger of Brooklyn; and sister, Denise Lewinger, and her fiance, Michael Neftaly of Garden City.

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