Saturday, March 04, 2006

Island's loss is heaven's gain

Funeral for 6-year-old Liberian boy draws mourners to Christian Pentecostal Church

By Kiawana Rich, Advance Staff Writer

A 6-year-old Liberian boy who came to Staten Island in search of a medical miracle and a better life -- and endeared himself to everyone with a smile that wouldn't quit and his always-open arms -- was remembered last night during a touching funeral service in Christian Pentecostal Church, Concord.

Boimah Cooper died Feb. 17 in New York University Medical Center in Manhattan after undergoing a risky, 12-hour operation designed to save his life, which was threatened by the tuberculosis that had ravaged the bones in his small body.

As speaker after speaker -- including those from the Liberian community, local politicians, Island leaders and others -- came forward from the group of about 100 to describe the little boy, it was clear how much of an impact he had on others in his short time here.

The Rev. Comfort Parker, chaplain of the Staten Island Liberian Community Association, described Boimah as a beautiful rose God chose to adorn his kingdom.

"Your reward is great in heaven," Rev. Parker told Patricia Lockhart, the 2003 Advance Woman of Achievement who brought Boimah here for medical treatment and hoped to adopt him. "And God will bless you."

He never met Boimah, but 14-year-old Jose Veras, a student at Susan Wagner High School in Sea View dressed in his full Air Force J.R.O.T.C. uniform, lauded Ms. Lockhart, whom he knew from elementary school.

"What she did for Boimah, it just makes me think of her as a hero. I wish there was a lot of other people who were just like her -- saving many youngsters with no homes," Veras said.

City Councilman Michael McMahon smiled as he reminded the gathering how much Boimah loved politicians -- the boy wanted to grow up to be one.

"Right now he's up in heaven, probably calling together an assembly of the young angels to have a caucus on how to play and have a good time," said McMahon, adding, "Patricia, thank you for making our hearts so much better."

The Rev. Dave Watson, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Mariners Harbor, praised Ms. Lockhart for taking in a sick child and giving him a chance.

"Thank you, Pat, for your courage. You put your heart on the line and we admire you for that," he said.

Services continue today at Christian Pentecostal Church at 9:45 a.m., followed by a repast, a traditional Liberian meal, to be held at the Great Kills Little League at 245 Greaves Ave.

Kiawana Rich is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at