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'Love on your family while you can' | Coronavirus kills three members of one DC family

Their loved ones say: "take this pandemic seriously."

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus has ravaged one Southeast D.C. family, killing three members in two weeks. 

Shanta Leake-Cherry said first, her older sister 45-year-old Enekee (or "Nicky") got sick and died from the coronavirus on April 11. Then, her older brother 44-year-old John, Jr. and mom 74-year-old Leslie (who live together), contracted the virus and were taken to the hospital.

Her brother succumbed on April 28, and two days later, she got the call that her mom had passed away as well.

“This virus it attacks your body so fast, and it’s so unbelievable," Leake-Cherry said. "I would not wish this on my worst enemy.”

She said the only way she has managed to keep her composure after the losses were due to her relationship with God. 

“It’s been tough, but I can honestly say … my faith in God is what’s driving me, what’s pushing me, and just knowing that God is my strength," she said.

Credit: Shanta Leake-Cherry
74-year-old Leslie Leake and two of her children, 45-year-old Enekee and 44-year-old John, Jr., died from the coronavirus in April.

When asked how Leake-Cherry would describe her mom and siblings, she laughed, reminiscing.

“My mom, she was a woman of faith," she said. "She was an honest woman, a kind woman. She lived a life of service, so my mom, she would help anyone in need."

Her sister, she called the "social butterfly of the family," embracing everyone she met. And, she considered her brother the "jokester of the family."

“We were inseparable," she said. "I want to underscore inseparable, because we were so tight. Nothing could come between us. We didn’t hold any grudges. We loved on each other, because that’s what our parents taught … and for our family’s circle to be broken, that’s going to be difficult.”

Leake-Cherry said her parents led by example to welcome everyone into their family, so they felt loved. Christopher Tate said he noticed that immediately.

“And to know that they left here at a time when we can’t hug each other, that’s the hardest part, because that’s the legacy they had," Tate said.

He had even asked John to be godfather for two of his kids, who got to know the family well over the years.

“She was the sweetest, like she, I can’t describe it, like she reminds me of my grandma," Christopher's daughter, Christyl Tate said. "They both love going to church. They’re very close knit with their family. They were just so calm and peaceful.”

Credit: Shanta Leake-Cherry
Leslie Leake poses with her daughter, Shanta Leake-Cherry. Leslie died from COVID-19 in April.

Leake-Cherry said her family had been following CDC guidelines closely since the onset of the pandemic, but she said that hasn't been the case with everyone.

She hopes her family's story serves as a harsh reminder of the dangers of the virus.

“Love on your family while you can, because tomorrow is not promised," she said. "And also just be serious about what’s going on, because this pandemic is serious, and a lot of times we don’t take it seriously, because it hasn’t hit our home … take it from me, you do not want to see your loved ones in the hospital suffering.”

Leake-Cherry said she'll remember them laughing.

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