Unwilling to let a lifelong developmental disability hold him back, Arthur Lehmann stitched together a wide-ranging network of friends and co-workers in the Twin Cities to live an independent, inspiring and productive life.

Lehmann, of Plymouth, died July 17 after a brief battle with melanoma. He was 55.

"Arthur is really a shining example of someone who was able to live life to the fullest," said Sue Walker, chief program officer for Wayzata-based Hammer Residences, which assisted Lehmann in arranging housing and employment. "We just feel privileged to help him learn those things in whatever capacities we could offer."

Walker said Lehmann's relationship with Hammer began soon after he graduated high school, when the nonprofit helped him first find a dormitory to live in, then a group home and eventually his own apartment, where he lived for at least 20 years.

"He was a man who wanted to pursue things that would give him a good quality of life," said Walker, whose weekly phone conversations with Lehmann lasted for many years.

"Arthur was a quiet man and very, very kind," she said. "And he really valued friendships over the years, and those friendships were very valuable to him."

Among his most devoted friends were Kay and Glen Christianson, who grew close to Arthur through a Minneapolis running club that focused on encouraging regular activity for people with physical disabilities and other developmental challenges.

"I might start to cry," Kay Christianson said when asked about Lehmann. "He was such a sweet and gentle soul. He always had a smile."

Christianson said that although Lehmann didn't say much, his personality came through in the times they would run together around Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), where her husband would ask Lehmann about the types of boats, dogs or trees they would see.

"The run around the lake wasn't just a run around the lake," she said. "We always hugged each other when we finished in the morning."

Lehmann's desire for self-sufficiency was evident everywhere he worked, mostly in jobs in the dining industry.

For his last 10 years, he worked as a dishwasher at Latuff's Pizzeria in Plymouth.

"He seemed to fit in real well with the other workers," said Dan Mascaro, co-manager of the family restaurant. "Anything you'd ask him to do, he'd do it. I know he enjoyed coming to work every day."

Mascaro said he grew concerned when Lehmann fell ill while at the restaurant, started walking slowly and was unsteady on his feet.

Lehmann was born in the northeastern New Jersey city of Red Bank before the family moved to the Twin Cities, where he attended Minnetonka High School and then graduated from Osseo High School.

His sister, Christa Lehmann, said that despite her brother's challenges from an early age, he found a way to live an independent life, including caring for his beloved black cat, Princess.

"Arthur was a busy guy," she said. "For the disadvantages he was given at birth, he sure made the most of it."

Along with his sister, Arthur Lehmann is survived by his mother, Patricia Fleming; a brother, Ken Lehmann; and five stepsiblings.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Community, 155 County Road 24, Wayzata, with visitation one hour earlier at the church.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482