For all of his short life, Tyler Quinter was the face of kindness around Oaklyn, Camden County. He gave love and got love.
And last year, the 13-year-old boy emerged as an internet darling beyond Oaklyn, after five Dallas police officers were killed in an ambush. He asked his mother for his old Halloween costume -- a police uniform -- and had a picture of himself in it, saluting the American flag at half-staff, posted on Facebook.
He prayed for the safety of local police and hoped to be a policeman himself when he grew up.
On Monday, May 7, Tyler Quinter died during the night.
There were no warnings Sunday night when his parents, Lori and Mark, put him to bed and he told them, “I love you,” as he had so many nights before.
But the couple knew that every day with their son was a gift, as he struggled with two rare heart defects. One, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, was diagnosed during pregnancy, when a sonogram showed his lower ventricle had failed to develop properly. After birth, the couple learned their son also had truncus arteriosus, a congenital abnormality in which there is a single blood vessel that leads out of the heart instead of two.
Tyler’s condition was so serious that he required two heart operations and spent the first eight months of his life at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
With his death, the community that Tyler loved and that loved him back has rallied for his parents, filling their home with meals, sharing affectionate stories, and paying respects during services Saturday that included a police escort to Lakeview Memorial Park in Cinnaminson.
“There wasn’t a mean bone in his body,” Tyler’s father said. “He just cared for everybody.”
“He was a peacemaker. He loved people,” his mother said. “We would not be able to get through this without everybody.”
More than $18,000 has been donated through a YouCaring.com page to help with the family’s medical and funeral costs. The Oaklyn Police Department also is accepting donations for the Tyler Quinter Memorial Fund.
He befriended victims of bullies. He insisted that his family adopt Hudson, a pitbull mix saved by the Cherry Hill rescue group Paw It 4ward. If he saw “an elderly woman” walking alone, he joined her, Lori Quinter, 40, said.
His memory brings comfort even as the loss of their only child brings tears, she said.
Tyler visited the police department often, bringing signs and cards he made, and getting to know Sgt. Jane Jones. Since Tyler’s medical condition would not allow him to become a police officer, she suggested he could be a dispatcher instead -- as it is an important job that keeps officers safe.
Officers and dispatchers paid their respect by placing handcuffs, a uniform patch, and a trainee badge in his coffin.
“His personality was beyond his 13 years,” said Oaklyn Police Chief Mark Moore. The town covers barely more than half a square mile and has 4,000 residents. Moore estimates that most people there knew Tyler: “He was above and beyond anyone I knew.”
The chief credited Tyler’s parents, who “both are very kind and compassionate.” Mark Quinter, 42, was known among police before Tyler was born because he had served as fire chief for a few years.
The pregnancy came as a welcome surprise and the couple were delighted to see the color sonogram. Their joy turned to dismay when they learned about the heart disorder. They prayed for guidance when they were given the option to terminate the pregnancy.
“We decided to bring Tyler into the world,” said Mark, who works as a surgical supply manager for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Lori, an administrative employee in a dermatology practice, recalled holding her baby for the first time when he was well enough, but still frail with tubes attached to his body. She slept at the hospital, only going home when she caught a cold or virus and could not be around Tyler.
There were times, the couple admitted, they were angry -- at themselves, at each other, and at God. But as they watched their son grow, they realized how special he was.
“He was the most loving and caring child,” Lori Quinter said.
Tyler loved sports. He tried T-ball, but his heart could not tolerate the exertion. Recently, Tyler played baseball with the Miracle League, created for children with disabilities. His mother said he smiled from cheek to cheek when he was playing.
Donations also may be made to Make-A-Wish New Jersey, 1347 Perrineville Rd., Monroe Twp., N.J. 08831 (nj.wish.org), or Paw It 4ward, Box 163, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08003 (pawit4wardfoundation.com).
Condolences for the family may be posted at creranfh.com.