Calvin Bell had a lot to look forward to. The 29-year-old Riverdale man worked in security and fire safety and was about to embark on a course in business and operations management.
His younger brother, Andre, said Calvin was strong.
"He was a fighter," Andre says. "So much of his legacy is perseverance. He never gave up on himself or the people around him. He never gave up on his dreams."
Bell was experiencing symptoms of coronavirus in early March, so he went to the ER at the Allen Hospital at NewYork-Presbyterian. He was diagnosed with double pneumonia but was denied a COVID-19 test.
His brother monitored his progress on Facetime.
"He was looking better," Andre Bell says. "He seemed like his old self, laughing, joking around."
Two weeks later, on March 24, their dad, Andre, Sr., who was isolating with Calvin, called to say he had passed out. He was taken to St. John's Medical Center. A day later, he died. He was young. He had no pre-existing conditions. It would take an autopsy to confirm he had coronavirus.
Their aunt, Lisa Pressly, said she struggled to believe the news that her beloved nephew had died.
"The most horrible moment came when my brother said, 'He's gone, Lisa,'" she says. "That beautiful warm smile and easygoing nature would never be there for another family gathering, or to blow out another candle or give his auntie another great hug."
"This COVID-19 thing has really put my emotions through the ringer and back," Pressly adds. "This was the last straw for me."
Calvin Bell was raised in Inwood with his brother and a younger sister, Jasmine. They lost their mom 10 years ago when the boys were 19 and 18. Their focus became caring for Jasmine, who was just 11 at the time.
Andre says while the brothers were opposites in many ways, deep down, they were the same.
"We had a really dynamic relationship," he said. "We loved to laugh, tell a lot of jokes. We had the kind of relationship like Andrew and Chris Cuomo, playful."
Community service also bound the brothers together. Andre became a teacher. Calvin became part of the Harlem Youth Marines, a group dedicated to keeping kids in school, and away from violence. He rose through the organization, attaining the rank of master gunnery sergeant.
As he tries to come to grips with the loss of the brother he loved and couldn't comfort in his last moments, Andre tries to focus now on the times they spent together.
"We loved hanging out and going to the movies and getting food, staying connected while living our own separate lives," he said. "We had a balance. Whatever one couldn't do, the other would step in and do. He was really my true support."