Skip to main content


heart saver, heart award, hyvee, save a life, lifesaver
HyVee Store Manager Justin Lewer (left) saved Elton Brown Jr.’s life in December 2023. Lewer was honored last week with the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver Hero Award. Staff photo by Jonny Clubb
Hy-Vee manager honored for saving shopper’s life
Jonny Clubb, Staff Writer

Ninety percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims do not survive the event.

Fortunately, that is not what happened at Hy-Vee in December of 2023, thanks to the quick action taken by employees.

Elton Brown Jr. went into cardiac arrest in the Hy-Vee dairy department. That’s when Hy-Vee Store Manager Justin Lewer and other employees sprang into action.

Lewer said that on the fateful day, he got the code blue call, rushed back to the dairy department, and followed the instructions of the 911 dispatcher. Lewer used an AED and performed CPR until first responders arrived.

“We had training about two years ago for the AED, and going through that training, I never thought I’d be using it,” Lewer said. “It was the longest four minutes from when I got back there until when the first officer got there.”

“Working at a grocery store you don’t expect to save someone’s life…and I’m just glad that I was here at the store that day to help Elton,” Lewer added. “We’re so blessed to see him walking the store now.”

On June 2, six months after the emergency, Lewer was honored by the American Heart Association (AHA) with a Heartsaver Hero Award. He said that being given the award was “a true, humbling honor.”

“It means the world to me to be here able to stand and see him receive this award because… it was a miracle that I made it,” said Brown. “I’m just totally grateful for everything and everyone that had something to do with it.”

In response to the event, Lewer felt that his staff needed more training, so he had the Owatonna Fire Department put on a class for about 40 of his full-time workers and managers.

“Now when we have code blues in the store, we’re more prepared for them,” Lewer said.

Following the award presentation, representatives from the American Heart Association stayed at Hy-Vee for a few hours to give shoppers and staff basic demonstration and training on how to do hands-only CPR.

“The AHA has a goal to turn a nation of bystanders into a nation of life savers, so we want to make sure that we’re equipping everybody to feel comfortable and confident to perform hands-only CPR,” said Krista Moffett, Executive Director of the Minnesota AHA.

More resources from the AHA can be found at

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates