Those who knew Nathaniel Royall Jr. best, his family, describe him as a man who was strong, wise and generous, with the heart of a poet.
When his youngest daughter, Sharnell Young, paid tribute to her dad, she wrote, “We'll never forget your larger than life personality, and your love of expressing your feelings in your poems.”
Royall was first tested for COVID-19 at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in mid-April and was released when the test came back negative. But just two weeks later, he was back, suffering from blood clots in his legs, this time at Brookdale Hospital, where he would test positive for the virus.
When his son, Sgt. Kevin Royall, a 27-year veteran of the NYPD, got the word, he headed straight to his father’s side.
“Because I was on duty and had a working relationship with security, they allowed me to go in with him,” Sgt. Royall said. “The ER wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t be there with him.”
Sgt. Royall said his dad was taken immediately into surgery to relieve the clots, then was placed on a ventilator. He never regained consciousness. Coronavirus took his life on April 29, two months shy of his 72nd birthday.
Nathaniel Royall Jr. was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the oldest of nine children of dad Nathaniel Royall Sr. and mom Doris. After graduating from George Westinghouse High School and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, it became clear he was destined for a life of service.
“He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne,” his son said. “Then he went to work for the Department of Correction and spent a short time after that as a New York City EMT.”
He met his wife, Delores, “around the neighborhood,” his son said. They went on to have three children of their own: Sherell, Sharnell and Kevin, who called his father, “one of a kind,” “handsome” and “stylish.
He wrote of his dad, “I have the habit of dressing my best and have a natural pride in my appearance which you passed on to me.”
He loved swimming, music and sports. He played baseball in high school, but his favorite was basketball, and was a super fan of the Knicks, in particular the Knicks of the Bernard King era, circa the early to mid ‘80s.
Royall Jr. shared all of that with his children, and later his 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Perhaps the biggest testament to the love his family felt for Nathaniel Royall Jr. came in the form of the tributes they wrote to him after his death.
His wife, Delores wrote:
“You were a person who overcame so many things in your life, which made the loss to the virus unthinkable. We regret that you passed away alone. We love you and miss you.”
From his older daughter, Sherell Crute:
“Dad, I remember you as full of life, wisdom, and an observer and fighter. It seems like you were here forever, then gone so very fast. You taught and meant so many things to me and I will treasure them as long as life lasts. It’s been hard to lose you, but Dad, in my heart, you will always be.”
His younger daughter, Sharnell Young, wrote:
“The last thing we saw coming was you leaving, let alone from a virus that has changed the world as we know it. Pops, you weren't the traditional dad, but the love you had for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren was undeniable. COVID may have robbed us of the opportunity to ever see you again, but it can’t take away our memories.”
And, from his only son, Sgt. Kevin Royall:
“Your love for others and unselfishness and generosity are other traits that you possessed. Your laugh and sense of humor kept the whole family in stitches. My only regret is that I could not loan you some of my strength to help you fight the difficult fight that your body alone could not handle. I had no idea when I left that hospital the night of April 21st, it would be our last conversation. You told me you loved me and I expressed the same. You are gone but you will never be forgotten.”
When he became ill, Nathaniel Royall Jr. was staying with his 91-year old mom, a cancer survivor, trying to keep her safe from the virus. His wife, Delores, was doing the same for her mother.
And, his son said, that’s how he would like his father to be remembered.
“I want him to be remembered for his generosity,” Sgt. Royall said. “He had a big heart, a love for other people. Even if they were strangers, he would give them the shirt off his back. And he was someone who loved to laugh.”