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Everyone misses Lovell: Outpouring of support follows Beamer student's death

Lovell Sykes was 15 and a sophomore at Todd Beamer High School. He died on Nov. 15 from complications related to an ankle injury. Students, teachers and administrators from Beamer took up the cause of making sure Lovell’s family could afford to bury and memorialize him. - Courtesy image
Lovell Sykes was 15 and a sophomore at Todd Beamer High School. He died on Nov. 15 from complications related to an ankle injury. Students, teachers and administrators from Beamer took up the cause of making sure Lovell’s family could afford to bury and memorialize him.
— image credit: Courtesy image

She taps on her chest and in a weary voice says, “It’s empty in here.” The boy she helped raise from birth has been gone for just over one month.

She called him “Lovey” and he called her “Nanny.” They lived together in a two-bedroom apartment near Panther Lake, sleeping in the same room because that’s all the room they had.

“I saw him come into this world,” she said.

Lovell Sykes died unexpectedly, and Sheila Hills (Nanny) still chokes up when she thinks about her grandson. She could not eat or sleep after he died.

No one has anything but good memories of Lovell. He was kind, polite, loved to share and loved to play video games. He tried once to teach Nanny how to play, but she couldn’t get into it.

Lovell was 15 and a sophomore at Todd Beamer High School. He died on Nov. 15 from complications related to an ankle injury. There was grief after he died, but a great outpouring of support for Lovell and his family. Students, teachers and administrators from Beamer took up the cause of making sure Lovell’s family could afford to bury and memorialize him.

“They helped me out like I was part of the family,” Hills said. “They supported me like family because that’s the way they felt.”

They brought food to Hills after Lovell died. They set up an account at a local bank and enough money came together to cremate Lovell. Now, they’re working on getting a headstone and a burial plot.

In Hills’ living room, there are just a few things: a green couch, a table, a TV stand and Lovell’s beloved game systems, sitting idle. He also loved computers and aspired to design video games. He told Nanny that he would one day be able to buy her a nice house.

Hills pulls out a big card constructed by Lovell’s classmates. “Deepest sympathies” in big letters over a giant, red heart and a yearbook photo of Lovell. His classmates wrote to him:

“Lovell was the sweetest kid,” wrote Jessica Morse.

“We would always race to answer the math problem,” from Courtney Benthier.

Jamie Snowden, 25, was Lovell’s English and creative writing teacher at the Beamer academy, School of Global Leadership and Economics. Lovell was a special education student, but came to Snowden’s class “hungry” to learn, he said. Lovell was a big guy, and was sometimes a target for bullies. But his classmates had his back; they loved him. He held doors for the girls, was always smiling and would bake banana bread at home and bring it to school to share.

Last year, Snowden assigned students a two-page analysis of the civil rights movement through a Dr. Seuss book. Lovell ended up writing something like 20 pages; he would stay after school just tapping away on the keyboard working on that essay.

“You could see him thinking, working so hard,” Snowden said.

Snowden had Lovell in class again this school year. But he got injured and missed a few weeks.

The last time Snowden saw Lovell, he was excited that his mother was coming to visit from Burien. He told Lovell to focus on the visit.

On Nov. 15, academy principal Joni Hall called Snowden at home and told him about Lovell. Hall, a new principal this year, didn’t know Lovell well, but she saw him once during gym class, trying his mightiest to run a mile.

The gym teacher told me “that the kid tries hard, he pushes himself,” she said. “He could always count on (Lovell) to get in there and be willing to go the distance and try hard.”

When Snowden went into class on Nov. 16, he had to be plain with his students. “Lovell’s dead,” he told them.

“The whole day was spent remembering him,” he said.

Hills said Lovell sprained his ankle a while ago, when he was 14. It was a routine injury for a kid, but it got worse. They kept taking him to the doctor, but the leg swelled up, she said, with fluid built up. Doctors told her the unhealed sprain caused a blood clot that took her Lovey. He would be 16 on Jan. 11.

“He was a kind person even from a baby,” she said. “He had a good heart.”

How to help

A fund to aid Lovell Sykes’ family with burial costs has been set up at Umpqua Bank. Go to any branch in Federal Way and ask to deposit into the “Lovell Sykes Memorial Fund.” For bank locations, visit www.umpquabank.com.

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