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Pregnant Olympian Passes Away - Leaves Behind Husband and Children

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Sarah Cooney


My cousin, Thomas Laverty, met his fiancee, Meskerem Legesse in 2007. Tommy grew up in Connecticut to Thomas Laverty and Pam Laverty, while Meski grew up in Ethiopia, the daughter of Legesse and Molue Burre. She was born in 1986 in Addis Ababa. Her mother would often ask her to run to the grocery store for her family of five brothers and sisters and it was here where Meski's love of running flourished. She attended high school in Ethiopia and developed her passion under the tutelage of her father, who coached her in her very first races. One of her favorite memories were the trips with her father to the ice cream store after her competitions.

In 2004, Meski ran for Ethiopia in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and, while she didn't advance to the medal race, she continued a professional running career in the United States, emigrating in 2006.

Meski met Tommy when they both lived in Connecticut. Soon after, they began dating and have been together ever since. In 2009, Meski was diagnosed with heart problems and was forced to stop running. However, good news soon followed. After moving in with Tommy in Connecticut, she gave birth to Grayson Legesse Laverty on August 27, 2011.

They moved to the Bronx to begin their family. As an added blessing, they were much closer to Meski's church, St. Mary of Zion of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a congregation that was an extended family to Meski. During this time, Tommy worked in ad sales and rose high in the ranks of his company. He and Meski decided that Tommy should open his own marketing firm in Connecticut. However, their plans did not evolve as they had hoped. Tommy's family was struggling without a consistent paycheck and no health insurance. Meski and Tommy soon realized that they were pregnant with a baby girl, due in August 2013. Tommy gave up his dream of starting his own business and started a national job search, interviewing at companies in Houston and Rhode Island.

However, on July 15, 2013, three weeks before her due date, Meskerem Legesse died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. Because of the life-saving efforts of the Hamden paramedics and the staff at Yale-New Haven hospital, the doctors were able to save Tommy and Meski's baby girl, named Bethelle, which means "With God."

Tommy has a strong familial support system; however, he is an extremely financially-strapped young man with two children under the age of two. He has had to move back in with his father, leaving Meski's congregation in Yonkers. It was this congregation, including the Ethiopian Olympic team, who raised money to send Meski's body back to Ethiopia to be buried near her parents, whom she hadn't seen in nine years. While Tommy is currently working, he is on semi-permanent leave from his job with no strong prospects in the near future.

His parents, sisters and extended family have supported Tommy in every way we can think of but it is not enough. The price of diapers, formula and all of the other basic necessities for his children has completely overwhelmed him. It is for this reason I am writing to you today. We, Tommy's family, are asking for any donations that you can send to help him and his children. I understand that you may receive hundreds, even thousands of letters asking for help. However, Tommy is different. He is effervescent. His joy for life is contagious and his personality magnetic. While he is grappling with a difficult situation and is a bit lost right now, we, his family, have faith in his inner strength and commitment to his children. Grayson and Bethelle will grow up with strong female figures in their lives; however, they will have no memory of their ever-loving mother, their mother who would have done anything for them. Part of Tommy's plans now include maintaining their connection with their Ethiopian culture, as well as the memory of their devoted and adoring mother.



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