By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The father of seven who lost five of his children in a house fire on Valentine’s Day is now surrounded by family.

Troy Lewis’ brother, Roy Lewis, and others made it to his bedside late Sunday night. The family is now planning funerals for the children who died.

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Roy Lewis says his brother is devastated by the loss but encouraged by the outpouring of support from the community.

“They were happy little kids,” he said, recalling those who died. 

His nieces and nephews always managed to smile despite the tragedy they’d recently been through.

“They lost their mother a few months ago,” he said.

Troy Lewis had been raising his seven children in a north Minneapolis duplex on 29th Street and Colfax Avenue when fire destroyed life as he knew it.

He was able to save two of his children from the smoke and fire, and those who survived — Shaca, 9, and Electra, 6 — are improving at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

Lewis’ brother says it’s hard to think about the kids lost without weeping. It’s especially hard, he said, to think about the passing of the 8-year-old Christopher, who stepped up to help his younger siblings when their mother died.

But the prayers, a vigil, and a shrine dedicated to the family give them what they need to keep going.

“The attention that we’re receiving from different people that we don’t even know is very helpful with this, because…when you try and wrap your mind around it, it’s just too startling,” Roy Lewis said.

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He says his brother is torn, but let’s nothing stand in the way of watching over the two girls who survived.

“As soon as we got in town last night…he took us to their rooms,” said Roy Lewis.

While Troy Lewis concentrates on his and their recoveries, the community is making moves to help the family.

“It’s going to get covered,” said Margaret Brooks, who owns Brooks Funeral Home in St. Paul.

She will assist the family in applying for county benefits to help pay for the five funerals.

Now the push is on to get the community to dig deep to help the survivors start all over again.

If you would like to help, the family is asking people to donate to the fund set up by the Minnesota Teacher’s Federation:

Donations for the Lewis family can be made out to MFT 59. All checks can be made out to “In Care Of The Lewis Family.” The phone number is 612-529-9621.

The Garrett family, who lived on the first floor of the duplex, also lost their home in the fire. Donations can be made at BMO Harris Bank “In Care Of The Garrett Family.” The phone number is 612-238-8700.

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Minneapolis Teacher’s Federation is taking monetary donations as well as clothes, shoes and toiletries for both families. You can drop those items off at the federations building.

Reg Chapman