Before his 14-year-old life was cut short by an unknown assailant with a sawed-off shotgun, Tariq "Boozie" Blue was a sharp-dressed eighth grader who had amassed roughly 60 pairs of blue jeans, all folded neatly on plastic hangers in the closet of his South Philadelphia bedroom.
A day after the March 14 attack, he was a donor, with six of his organs helping to save a half-dozen lives, according to his mother, Lawanda Welton. "He still is alive," she says, "because somebody's pumping that heart of his."
"Boozie" - his nickname since a baby - "had to be fresh-dressed to impress, every day," his mother says. So, a few days after the shooting, Welton drove to the Aeropostale store at the Cherry Hill Mall to pick out a fresh set of the clothes he loved - jeans with little rips at the knees, a striped polo, and a white track jacket with red-and-navy stripes on the sleeves - in which to bury her firstborn son. She bought an extra set for Boozie's 11-year-old brother, who adored him.
When he was shot - once, just above the eye - Boozie was on his first day of community service following an altercation with a teacher, sweeping debris from a basketball court. That night, Boozie's broom and cell phone lay next to a large pool of blood.
"It's not like he was a bad child," Welton says. "To know my son was to love him; he was outgoing, full of life, caring."
Welton, who works with mentally disabled adults, needed a few days to tell Boozie's sisters, age 6 and 7. "I said that he was an angel now, so when they look up at night and see the stars twinkling, they know one of them is him."
On Thursday, Welton spent time alone with her son's body at the funeral home. "I was a little at peace when I saw him," she says, "to know that he was OK."
She told her family, "I'm glad we got the XL shirt because that large would've been a little tight. Everything fit good."
Stepping from the limo Friday, Welton pulled one of her son's old blue hoodies over her suit before approaching his grave.
Contact Inquirer staff photographer April Saul at 215-854-2872 or email@example.com.