Norfolk father mourns the death of 2 children mere months apart

“I want to take you to school,” José Leary remembers telling his son, Jaylon. “I want to drop you off with your lunch bag.”

The 14-year-old laughed at him, Leary said.

He was all set for his first day of high school at Maury High School last week, but Jaylon didn’t make it.

He died Sept. 3 after a 2015 Audi A3 hit him near Shoop and Peronne avenues. He was crossing the street on his hoverboard.

Jaylon is the second child Leary and Deidre Graham have lost in less than two months.

Jaylon’s sister, 15-year-old De’Jana Leary, was shot and killed July 22 on West 28th Street. Norfolk homicide detectives have charged Deiontrae Bates, 20, with second-degree murder, attempted malicious wounding and two related gun charges in that case.

Losing both kids has been hard, Leary said.

“I shouldn’t even have to go through this again,” he said.

De’Jana was a prankster, her dad said. One time, she called him pretending to be an angry driver and accused him of hitting her car.

He called her “Footsie” because when she was younger, she was bowlegged, he said.

“Her and Jaylon were inseparable,” he said. “She used to always protect him. Even though he was a lot bigger than she was, she always tried to protect him.”

And Jaylon?

He was a humble, mild-tempered boy, “as sweet and kind as he wanted to be,” his dad said.

The only boy living at home, he looked out for his four sisters and his mom.

He loved football, basketball and boxing, his dad said. He was excited to try out for Maury’s basketball team and spent lots of time shooting hoops at Shoop Park.

That’s where he was Monday before the accident, his dad said. It’s also where his sister’s memorial is.

“All he wanted to do was get to high school to play basketball,” he said. “That’s all he wanted to do. He didn’t get the opportunity to even try out.”

Leary said he and his son were close. They share a middle name, Javon. He often called him Lil José, he said. The younger Leary was a ladies’ man, too.

“He gets that from his daddy,” said Leary, smiling.

“That was my boy. The only time I’d argue with Jaylon is if he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. It’s tragic the way he had to be called home to God to be at peace and rest with his sister. It’s still hard for me to fathom.”

Leary said he’s frustrated because speeding near Shoop Park is a persistent problem.

The Traffic Fatality Team is still investigating . They’ll turn their findings over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which will decide if charges will be filed, said police spokeswoman JoAnn Hughes.

Leary wants to see more speed bumps near Shoop Avenue, more signs for pedestrians, better crosswalks and better lighting so kids can be seen, he said.

“I can accept the fact that it was predestined for my children to be with God, but the harsh ways that they had to be called home with the Lord is just rough,” he said. “It’s disturbing.”

Jaylon was strong when his father couldn’t be, his dad said.

When De’Jana died, he comforted his dad and made sure their family was OK.

“Jaylon and my baby girl, they were some strong pillars,” he said. “Even though I’m their father and I can pretend and act like I’m the strongest man in the world, they knew that this was a time where I needed them.”

It may take a while, but he has forgiveness in his heart for the people who took his children away.

He can still hear De’Jana and Jaylon’s voices calling out to him.

“Daddy,” she says.

“Pops,” he says.

“I love you.”

_____________________________

Publication: The Virginian-Pilot / September 10th, 2018
Photo Credit: 
José Leary

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