Wil Lewis Memorial

For: Maria Lewis
Organizer: Maria Lewis
of $0 goal.
Raised by 273 donors
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This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

Wil was fatally shot in Chicago on July 12th, 2014.  It has been truly heartbreaking losing him. He had a big heart and was loved by everyone. His fun-loving spirit, sparkling eyes, and infectious laugh will stay with us forever.

Wil was born in Guatemala, and adopted by his parents when he was 7 years-old.  Wil overcame many obstacles including only knowing street Spanish, a learning disability and learning a whole new culture.  He grew up in California, Sturgeon Bay WI, and graduated from Kaukauna High School.  He earned a Fine Art Degree in Photography from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design where he met his wife Maria.

Maria and Wil were married in August of 2012 and looked forward to moving to Chicago last year.  Recently they had just moved to a new apartment, and Wil was to start a new job. His ambitions were unfailing as was his love for photography, for life, and for his friends and family. It's hard to imagine a world without him.

We thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers.  The outpouring of support has been a blessing to his loved ones.  Thank you!

Donations will be used for funeral costs and to start scholarships for college-bound kids who have worked hard to make their dreams come true.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on October 5, 2014

Posted on October 5, 2014

In Wil’s memory, this scholarship will be awarded to a kindred spirit to attend Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD). The recipient will be a talented artist that has had many obstacles to overcome in life. Someone that has worked hard and will relentlessly pursue their dreams. Someone who has a love and passion for life and a heart to match. This scholarship will help initiate other works of art, works that Wil never got a chance to finish, all in support of a better education and better life ahead.
Wil’s friends and I have been doing fundraising events for the scholarship. We feel that it is therapeutic planning the events. It helps us remember Wil; he’s love for life, his creativity and his will to make a difference. September we had a successful bingo night at Hamburger Mary’s. October 17th is the next event, a silent art auction at MIAD during gallery night. The event will have live music, beverages, an art therapy table, and more. We are hoping to have many more events throughout the next months and years to come.  
We are asking for your help: volunteering, donate or spread the word; what is your #WilToMake?

Please connect to us:

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If your interested in volunteering sign up at the Google Doc below:
Wil you are forever with us.

Posted on October 5, 2014

Posted on October 5, 2014

On Thursday, September 25th the three defendants (Vaughn 31, Burke 15, and Phillips 17) in Wil's case were arraigned in court. They are all under one case number, but will have separate trials. All three entered pleas of not guilty. The state attorney said that it is normal in this type of case, even with all the evidence stacked against them. There will be court date almost every month until the cases go to trial. The case, at minimum, will not go to trial for two years. It may even be 4 or 6 years before the trial. All defendants are being charged as adults.

We met both of the state's attorneys and the victim witness coordinator; they will be involved with the case for its entirety. We feel that they are good people and hope they can get appropriate resolution. They expressed their condolences to Wil's family and friends.

It is very draining and depressing going through this process, but mostly extremely surreal. How is one even able to start to process the reason why they are sitting in the courtroom? It's hard enough to not be in denial that Wil is really gone, let along wrap my head around the way he was tragically taken. Needless to say the arraignment made the hurt very fresh. It is hard to explain the levels of being depressed. I measure it by how far from the house I can make myself go alone. Some days the front door is my enemy. I seem to have an internal battle daily, pushing myself through my new-formed anxieties. One thing that helps me is to think about all the wonderful things Wil was able to experience in his life. All the fun adventure and dreams we had together.

Thank you for your support, hugs

Posted on August 7, 2014

Posted on August 7, 2014

Lost at Sea

Awake at night, tossing and turning, staring into the distance, staring into Marialand. Marialand was a happy, carefree place, which matched my personality. This land has been tore apart and demolished; there are now only ruins. It is bleak and gray place where the rains never come to wash away the ash and soot, where suffocation causes no new growth to bloom.

I sit and sorrowfully gaze into the distance only wanting one thing to appear. In this sea of life Wil was the rock beneath my feet. He was always there. So sudden, so quick my rock has been swept away. Sinking, I try to tread water, but I am tired. I trying to see, but the darkness is deep. I try to breath, but the weight I feel. Many questions to which no answers I hear, no answers; he will never appear.

Moving forward

Wil Lewis Memorial site is so Wil's memory can live on. Wil and I had many dreams. Dreams to help communities, children, the world. We would often sit around and say "If I would win a million dollars I would" and our answers always revolved around starting a non-profit foundation – a foundation to make a beautiful world, a compassionate community, and a better place to live. The memorial site is a place to channel our love for Wil and all of the characteristics he embodied.

As each moment passes I grasp on to the #WilToMake you proud; the #WilToMake your passion live on forever; the #WilToMake a difference in this world. Help me celebrate Wil’s persistent pursuit of dreams. We ask you to share your own #WilToMake through artwork donations, volunteering your time for the auction, or through social media. The Wil Lewis Scholarship www.WilToMake.com

Posted on August 4, 2014

Posted on August 4, 2014

Hi Everyone,

The detective called this afternoon to updated me on Wil's case. As you know one person, the driver, is in custody and he has been charged with murder.  The preliminary trial is tomorrow.  The police were still looking for the shooter and an accomplice who fled on foot.  I'm glad to inform you, the police caught the two other guys that have been on the run. The police had a lead that they were hiding out in Racine, WI. Indeed they were.  The fugitives are in police custody in Wisconsin and they will have to be extradited to IL. The detectives think it will be about a week before they are in Illinois custody.  For me this is very bitter sweet, I am happy but so very sad. I guess it is a baby step toward closure, if that can even happen. 

I've been very busy with all those things related to death of a spouse. I constantly feel home sick without Wil – home was wherever Wil was. But I feel a little closer to Wil when I’m in Chicago because all of his belongings are here. I go and visit Wil at the bus bench often. Sometimes I sit against the building next to the last remaining bullet hole. I read the eulogies and nice things that have been said on Facebook. Today I told him about the update on his case.

Here is what I think Wil's last day consisted of.  He most likely woke up around 10am or 11am, which was the norm for Wil on the weekend. He treasured the mornings he could sleep in. After he woke he made a mental list of everything to do that day. One of his priorities was beautifying our “ugly art shelf”. He most likely looked up the nearest shop to look for supplies for this latest project. Wil set off after noon to explore the neighborhood, have lunch, and go find containers for our shelf. He bought nine red bins. After eating, Wil started on his walk home, still exploring our new neighborhood.

At about 3:20pm, the incident began when one gang (a group of people in a vehicle driving on the road) saw a different gang member that they intended to target and kill that day.  The "Target" was walking down Devon Ave.  The "Target" was behind Wil, on the same side of the street and a little ways down from him.  As Wil walked past the bus stop at Devon and Glenwood a gunman and an accomplice (whose job was to apparently yell gang stuff) hopped out of the car and ran across the street towards the rival gang member whom they intended to kill.   They ran toward the "Target" yelling gang slang and shooting the gun. One of those four bullets hit Wil in the back. The "Target", the gunman and the accomplice started running and crossed back over Devon and ran down a side street called Glenwood where the shooter (a boy) shot the gun 4 or 5 more times. The detectives have no idea how the "Target" was not hit by a bullet himself because the gunman was close behind him down Glenwood. While this was going on, the driver of the get-a-way car drove around the block to go pick up his two buddies. He drove erratically down the street and was going the wrong way on a one way street almost hitting cars and pedestrians. (People began calling this vehicle into police which allowed for a quick arrest).  The driver pulled back on to Devon (which was where he was suppose to pick up the other two buddies).  He attempted to pull over and run but the cops already had him surrounded.  There where many calls in to the police by that time. Thankfully many people used their cell phones and were able to get pictures of everyone involved. I was told there where multiple civilians that rushed to help Wil, so he was not alone.  I am thankful for swift justice and lots of evidence but I am most thankful that caring and kind souls didn't let Wil parish alone on the street.

Thank you again for your support and prayers.  I am glad I don't have to go through this alone.

Posted on August 1, 2014

Posted on August 1, 2014

On July 12, I lost my best friend and husband. Wil and I met in 2005 at art school. I remember the interests we shared and instantly connected over, like art and films and the outdoors. His goofy personality, sense of style and offbeat and often inappropriate sense of humor was perfectly compatible with my own.

Throughout our relationship, Wil and I were our own little team and did almost everything together. As creative partners in crime, we would embark on our silly adventures, often using covert operations and stealth to achieve our sneaky goals, like stealing abandoned kites from trees in the middle of the night. We would constantly make each other laugh at things I think that only we thought hilarious. For instance at parties, he would subtly whisper "skittlessss!" in my ear, and I would whisper back "taste the rainbow". When we were at home, it was almost like we were connected by a tiny umbilical cord. We couldn't stay apart in separate rooms for too long and would be naturally drawn to where the other was. We would have impromptu dance parties in our living room – Wil was an excellent dancer with some smooth moves.

There were so many quirks and kinks and surprises that just made this man wonderful. He was the expert drummer and beatboxer; a curious explorer and dreamer; a lazy hunter; a perfectionist in his work and style; a complete flirt; and a cuddly lover (even though he always denied it). We were like two peas in a pod, and supportive of each other’s often wild ideas. Last Christmas, after finishing up with family obligations, we decided on a whim to drive to my brothers’ home in DC and surprise him for New Years. We believed this spontaneity was crucial to achieve our shared goal: to have as much fun as possible.

All of those Saturday and Sunday mornings I would wake up and start my day. I would try and wait as long as I could to wake him up. He always said I couldn’t wake him up before 9am. I’d be so excited that it’s a weekend and we could spend the whole day together that it was hard to wait. So many times at 8:50 I would crawl back into bed to cuddle and wait in anticipation. He would say I’m like a puppy in the morning so excited to for the day, excited to play.

Wil’s creativity shined through every aspect of his life: his work, his style, and his music, art and movies. His ability to envision the possibilities was unmatched. He once repurposed our old filing cabinet into a coffee table. He always carried his camera around for capturing unique moments of life. His eye for the absurd, the abnormal, and the quirky - which he could transform into something truly beautiful - is what made him such a brilliant artist.

More recently, among our plans to change the world, we were learning Spanish. We had always talked about visiting Guatemala, Wil’s birthplace. This was part of a greater quest searching for the meaning of being an adult.

While I cannot believe that he is gone – I am still in shock and hurting – I am comforted by the rich tapestry of memories that we formed over our 8 years together. Still, my world has stopped. Hopefully one day I will find my way again back into his arms.

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