By Terrence McCoy
By Chris Joseph
By Fire Ant
By Terrence McCoy
By Kyle Swenson
By Dennis Bovell
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
"No bed," remembers Sheila, a heavy-set, cuddly woman with short, straight hair and a matriarch's weariness. "We sleep on the floor. So I make Kemar sleep on my tummy, and I use my clothes to cover him. And when anybody would come to the house, we would go outside to talk to them. We didn't want anyone to know that we didn't have any furniture. In the morning, we'd get up early and take the bus. We didn't want anyone to know we didn't have a car."
But Sheila worked, caring for geriatric patients in a nursing home, scrimping until she could finally afford a $60 bed from Salvation Army. She and Kemar didn't have to sleep on the floor anymore.
Right: After two devastating accidents, Bill Cheung plans to reopen his original restaurant.
Kemar's father, Rupert Campbell, didn't last long in America.
"Sometimes the phone would ring," she explains, "and it would be a wrong number and they'd hang up. And he'd want to beat me up because he thought it was someone calling for me."
The pair divorced, and Sheila and Kemar moved into an even smaller apartment in Pompano Beach. Unable to afford childcare, she took the toddler to work with her. In the years that followed, she brought the rest of the family to the United States one by one. She married a Jamaican ex-pat, Erroll Fraser, and bought a modest home in a humble Fort Lauderdale neighborhood just west of I-95.
A few blocks away, at Riverland Elementary, Kemar would begin learning the skills that made him such a popular fixture at school. He didn't go to class to learn anything except how to have a good time. To him, his classmates were a captive audience upon whom he could aim his constant torrent of jokes, japes, one-liners, good-natured taunts, celebrity imitations, and outlandishly silly boasts.
He never missed school, his mom says, for fear he'd lose out on a lunchtime laugh-fest or the chance to bet on a basketball game after class. New River Middle School followed, then four years at Stranahan, where Kemar's social life grew to such proportions that it compelled him to make it to class no matter what. He wouldn't ditch, even if he was sick.
"He'd go to school, then come home and let me take him to the doctor," Sheila says.
Nowadays, Sheila visits with Kemar nearly five days a week at Forest Lawn Cemetery, where she often brings food and drink to share with the grounds crew. One weekday after his posthumous birthday party, Sheila stopped by her son's grave to eat her lunch on her way home from work.
A warm but not humid afternoon drains away as Sheila stretches out on the grass. She bought the plot next to his, so there's plenty of room for her to slide off her shoes after standing all day. She rubs her swollen feet and crimson-painted toes as tears spill from her reddened eyes and run in rivulets down her cheeks.
"I'm still shedding eye-water for him," she says, holding herself back from more. She has been working as many hours as possible to escape the past few months of pain. Once, she tried to arrange back-to-back 12-hour shifts so she could forestall going home. Her boss wouldn't let her.
"I don't want to be around the house," she says, wiping a tear. "When I come home, that's when things get rough. If I work, I forget."
Often, after she rests her head on his flat headstone and strokes it softly with her hand, Sheila falls asleep on the lawn six feet above his casket. The rumble of the grave-digging backhoe is her alarm clock.
"I hardly sleep at night," she says. "I get up and patrol the house. I want to come over here and see if he's OK. I wouldn't mind if they gave me work here," she sighs, tugging at the grass covering her son's tomb. "I'd sit right here every day."
The cemetery is only a mile from Riverland Elementary and Shanghai Garden. The white cinderblock building surrounded by a low hedge was old but not grungy. Serving mostly a working-class clientele, Shanghai Garden specialized in typically pedestrian fried rice/egg roll/sesame chicken fare with the occasional lobster or shrimp special written on a chalkboard.
For owner Bill Cheung, the journey to America was not dissimilar to Sheila Fraser's, though Cheung's parents had already moved to New York and become American citizens by the time he left his native Hong Kong to join them in 1978. His father was a waiter at a restaurant in suburban New Jersey, and Bill, who came to America at 22, followed in his footsteps.
Cheung married his wife, Annie, and relocated to Puerto Rico, where he opened a Cantonese restaurant on the outskirts of San Juan. They had four children there but decided to move to South Florida in the early 1990s.
"Education for my kids is so much better here," explains Bill Cheung, a short, serious man with dark black hair showing a pronounced gray streak.
After trying out North Miami Beach, the family moved to west Broward and opened Shanghai Garden in 1994, the first Chinese restaurant on Davie Boulevard, long-time employee Keno Wang says. Between local families eating dinner in the small dining room, employees from nearby businesses ordering lunch, and bustling takeout and delivery traffic, the Cheungs did well enough that three years ago, they opened the second Shanghai Garden, in Plantation.
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