Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Remembering a 'very special boy' from Liberia

South Beach Civic group hosts benefit for child who died last week after surgery

Patricia Lockhart has her memories to console her. Memories of Boimah Cooper, the 6-year-old boy she rescued in Liberia, brought here and hoped to adopt.

The boy died last week of complications of spinal surgery necessitated by the tuberculosis that had ravaged his little body.

What Ms. Lockhart won't have, sadly, is a grave to visit.

She told supporters gathered last night at a fund-raiser in South Beach that red tape made it impossible to fly Boimah's grandfather here for his funeral, so "we have no choice but to return Boimah to Liberia."

Boimah will be buried alongside his parents.

"The grandfather wanted to come here and say thank you to Staten Island and New York City for making his little grandson's life full of love and happiness before he passed," Ms. Lockhart said, but visa regulations made that impossible.

Despite the setback, Ms. Lockhart got plenty of support at the fund-raiser, given by the South Beach Civic Association in the Epifanio Parish Center.

Family, friends, sympathetic Islanders and elected officials offered condolences and reminiscences of a little boy with a thousand-watt smile.

"I'm kind of mad at God that He took his smile so soon," said attorney and family friend Janele Hyer-Spencer.

Ms. Lockhart's daughter, Dana Lockhart, recalled "her little brother" who liked to pretend he was invisible. "My mother was telling him to go to bed and he was lying there. ... He got in so much trouble because he wouldn't say anything, he would sit there smiling because he thought he was invisible."

Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg called to offer his condolences to the teacher and 2001 Advance Woman of Achievement.

"He remembered Boimah, and that he was full of life, and he wanted to reach out to me because he was a very special little boy," said Ms. Lockhart.

Ms. Lockhart needs $10,000 to purchase plane tickets to return Boimah's body to Liberia, as well as cover funeral and burial costs. Donations may be sent to the Staten Island Liberian Association Relief Fund, c/o Patricia Lockhart, P.O. Box 61385, Staten Island, N.Y. 10306. For more information, call SILCA president George Curtis at (646) 996-8736, or Ms. Lockhart at (917) 445-7095.