Collins "Coach" Lewis, a wizard with a needle and thread who was celebrated for creating distinctive Mardi Gras Indian suits and preserving that culture, died Aug. 5 at his New Orleans home. He was 62.The cause of death has not been determined, but it is believed to have been an aneurysm, his niece Rosalind Condoll said.Mr. Lewis was famed for the intricate beading, especially in the chief's mask, and the African motifs he employed in the costumes he wore as a drummer for the tribe known as The Spirit of FiYiYi, said Jackie Harris, director of the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp."He was a cultural warrior," she said. In the Treme community, "he was almost a neighborhood icon," said Joan Rhodes, a close friend. "He represented the culture; he lived the culture."In addition to making Mardi Gras Indian suits, Mr. Lewis worked closely with children, not only in sports -- he earned his nickname when he was a football coach at Hunter's Field -- but also in making sure that youngsters understood the importance of the Indian culture and the work that goes into designing and making the suits, Rhodes said.One feature that sets FiYiYi costumes apart are the masks, which Mr. Lewis designed without diagrams to guide him, said his brother, Kenneth Lewis Sr."The mask is a lot of little pieces that are put together," he said. "It's something he visualized and just started doing. I always asked him where the books were, but he said it was something he thought of with one piece and just started sewing. It'd just grow and grow." What Mr. Lewis did was "almost like a home-grown culture," Rhodes said. "It's not influenced from the outside or from the power structure. It's something that feeds itself. It's something that can instill pride in young people, to be self-sufficient. You have to take care of your own and be proud of who you are."Mr. Lewis, a child of the 6th and 7th wards, grew up watching older men design and assemble Mardi Gras Indian suits, his brother said."He loved the idea of Mardi Gras Indians coming out and being as brilliant and vibrant as they are on Mardi Gras morning," Condoll said.Given that background, "it made sense that he would be participating in those traditions and the culture," Harris said. "It wasn't just a part of his life. It WAS his life."With his skill at making these suits, "Coach took it to another dimension," said Sylvester Francis, who runs the Backstreet Museum in Treme. "Once you looked at it, you knew it was his work."A 1967 graduate of Joseph S. Clark High School, Mr. Lewis joined the Air Force and was sent to Vietnam. After his discharge in 1971, Mr. Lewis returned to New Orleans and started working with young people. That year, he joined a march from Hunter's Field, then a desolate spot at St. Bernard and North Claiborne avenues that had been notorious for drug dealing, to City Hall to persuade city officials to make the park part of the New Orleans Recreation Department, said Jerome Smith, a founder of Tambourine and Fan and an organizer of the march.It worked. That spot will mark the end of the procession after his funeral Saturday, Rhodes said.Survivors include his wife, Carol Handy Lewis; two sons, Kenya and Kareem Lewis of Houston; his brother, Kenneth Lewis Sr.; two sisters, Lydia Condoll and Janice Magraff; and five grandchildren.A funeral will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion Funeral Home, 1615 St. Philip St. Visitation will be at 8 a.m. and a cultural program will begin at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Mount Olivet Cemetery.