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Elegies: Roxbury mother, paraplegic son die of coronavirus one day apart. ‘They were always tied to the hip’

David Drayton, 45, and his mother, Jacqueline, died of COVID-19 one day after the other.Michael Soarse

They came from all walks of life, and they all left behind both a legacy and people who loved them. The Globe is remembering coronavirus victims as unique individuals, memorializing them more for how they lived than how they died.

Mother and son, a teen victim of gun violence that left him paralyzed, shared an apartment in a Roxbury neighborhood where everyone knew and loved David Drayton, fondly known as Squeaky, and Jacqueline made gumbo so delicious that her family insisted she should charge for it.

Jacqueline Drayton, 76, and David, 45, died of COVID-19 one day apart; Jacqueline on April 14 and David on the 15th.

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“They were always tied to the hip,” said Drayton’s youngest son, Michael Soares, 40. “Anytime one goes to the hospital, the other one goes. It’s always been like that.”

As the pandemic took hold, Soares and his brother had a heart-to-heart talk.

“He said, ‘I ain’t never leaving my mother,’ ” Soares said. “He told a couple people that when she was in the hospital. And my mom said the same thing, ‘I’m not leaving my baby; nobody can take care of my baby like I can.’ ”

For 30 years, Jacqueline and David lived in an apartment at the corner of Centre and Gardner streets.

In recent times, Jacqueline had a host of health problems, from diabetes to kidney and heart issues. She mostly stayed home, cooking and taking care of David, Soares said.

David, on the other hand, would be up and dressed, donning a pair of sneakers from his vast collection, and heading out in an electric wheelchair.

“He moved faster than a lot of people who can walk," Soares said.

Because he had such an optimistic spirit, David used to give motivational talks regularly to newly paralyzed patients at Boston Medical Center, his brother said.

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David was about 15 when he was shot. Soares was about 11. His memory of the violence remains fuzzy; he knows David was unconscious for two months afterward.

Most vividly, he recalls a fleeting sight of his wounded brother.

“All I know is I ran around the corner, and I can’t even describe seeing your brother on the ground with sirens all around," he said.

After the shooting, David’s energy and resilience never faltered.

He was the type to say: “If I could be in a wheelchair and move like I move, you got two feet, you should be moving faster," Soares said.

He couldn’t be stopped — ”everyone know that about Squeaky,” Soares said.

Squeaky is a nickname David had since he was a newborn.

“He was a preemie, my grandpa called him that," Soares said. “And it just stuck with him, little pipsqueak.”

Their Sunday routine, while mom prepared Sunday dinner, was for David and Soares to play Madden NFL 20 on PlayStation.

“His hands couldn’t move, but he could play a PlayStation with his mouth," Soares said.

And he was remarkably good at it. So good, that Soares wanted to record him on video. But David was adamant, he would not have it; there would be no recordings.

Jacqueline was born in Franklin, La., the oldest of five siblings. She was a teen when she and her family relocated to Boston with her grandparents.

Jacquelin’s daughter died as an adolescent in the ’70s after she was hit by a car. She leaves two children: Soares and his older brother, Anthony Drayton.

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For many years, Jacqueline worked as a housekeeper at a Boston hotel, Soares said.

She used to truly enjoy a day of fishing and loved “her gospel music,” Soares said. She also had a decent CD collection featuring Marvin Gaye, Barry White, and “all the old school talking about love [stuff]” he teased.

But cooking was Jacqueline’s mainstay.

“She loved to cook for everybody,” her son said. Okra with crab was a specialty, and she always made red rice for cookouts. But her gumbo, filled with crab, shrimp, and lobster, was best of all.

It was so delicious, (and expensive), Soares said, that “I used to tell her to charge for it."

Jacqueline began feeling poorly around April 1 and went Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She tested negative for COVID-19, but remained there a little over a week.

The day before she returned home, David went to Boston Medical Center with respiratory issues. He tested positive for COVID-19.

“Mom comes home, she finds out David has COVID and she’s worried,” Soares recalled.

Two days later, Soares made his daily morning call to his mother and he instantly knew something was not right.

“She thought I was somebody else," he said.

At the same time, David’s health was faltering, and his loved ones couldn’t visit.

“He was stuck in the hospital passing alone, by himself and it was so scary,” Soares said.

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David had been intubated three times before and didn’t want to go through it again, Soares said. He was on the phone trying to talk David into it, begging him, “please just do it for me, please, do it for me.”

“Michael, I’m going to beat this out. You know me; I beat everything," David told him.

“I don’t know about this one," Soares said.

When David signed off, he said: “Tell everybody I love them."

That was on April 12 or 13. Around this same time, Jacqueline returned to the hospital. On the 14th, Soares got a call from his mother’s nurse telling him it’s time to come say “goodbye.”

At the hospital, Soares performed the heartbreaking duty of helping relatives say their farewells via FaceTime. Soares and a niece put on protective suits and spent their final moments with her.

He was on the highway, driving when the hospital called to tell him his mother had died.

About two hours later, David’s doctor called.

“They wanted to let him go right then and there,” Soares said. “I said ‘no, I just had to let go of my mother. Please, do anything you can to save my brother.‘ ”

When he arrived at the hospital, a few of David’s close friends had already gathered. They took turns suiting up to say their farewells at David’s bedside.

Soares knew his brother was dying, all of his organs were failing, but he resisted pulling the plug, until the next day. After he gave his permission, David died within an hour.

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“I was trying to prolong it,” Soares said. “To see if he had a fighting chance.”


Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.