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On Memorial Day, family remembers WWII veteran who died from COVID-19

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BATON ROUGE - One Baton Rouge family is remembering a WWII veteran on Memorial Day, less than two months after he died from COVID-19.

In April, we first told you about two brothers, Saymon and Willie Jefferson, that passed away within days of each other from the virus. In total, nine family members have tested positive for the virus.

On Monday, as the nation paused to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, the family members reflected on Saymon’s life and his time in the military.

“He was like my father, so it wasn’t a traditional grandparent-grandchild relationship, it was more like a father-daughter type of relationship. I am his oldest grandchild,” Latrenda Jefferson said.

Saymon was only 16 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served as an artillery weapons specialist from 1943 to 1947, and was stationed in Korea and the Pacific Northwest while he was deployed, according to family members.

When he came home he started working for Jenkins Construction in Baton Rouge, eventually reaching the position of foreman. His family says that in the ’70s, Saymon was involved in a terrible car accident that nearly left him paralyzed.

“The doctors told him that he would never be able to walk again. I saw him fight through all of that, and he was able to walk again. He was an amazing person,” Latrenda said.

After celebrating his 94th birthday in February, Saymon was brought to Baton Rouge General Hospital, where he tested positive for the coronavirus and died on April 1.

“It’s been devastating for me personally, because I’ve been so close to him all my life. When I moved to Texas at the age of 19 in 1995 I never missed a call with him. I called him every single day, and spoke with him on the day of his death. So, it’s been really devastating for me not to have him around anymore,” Latrenda said.

Not being able to be there when he passed weighed heavily on Latrenda. So, this Memorial Day weekend she drove to the Louisiana National Cemetery to get a little bit of closure by visiting her grandfather’s plot.

“It was very bittersweet for me. I’m proud of who he his and who he was, but I'm still devastated all at the same time. I’m just so proud to be his granddaughter,” Latrenda said.

Latrenda says that above everything, Saymon was a fighter. From the Second World War, to the coronavirus pandemic, and everything in between, he fought and loved his family till the very end.

“Like I said, my granddaddy was a fighter his whole life,” Latrenda said.

Saymon’s life will live on through family members, like Latrenda. In total, he is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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