Breaking News
More () »

'He was a beautiful soul': Grandma remembers boy who drowned in St. Louis County pool

Lyubov Strauss said her 6-year-old grandson, Travone "T. J." Mister Jr., had an infectious smile that would light up any room.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — "He was a beautiful soul. Very connected to all of us. I loved him very much," said Lyubov Strauss, the grandmother of 6-year-old Travone Mister Jr.

Strauss said Travone had an infectious smile that would light up any room. She said "T. J.," as the boy was known, was curious, smart and looking forward to going to a first-grade gifted program this fall.

"He was advanced in math and verbally, too. He passed all the tests. He always smiled. He was our little sunshine. He made everyone happy," said Strauss.

But now no one in the boy's family is "happy."

"It's so much grief that I can't even describe it," she said.

Strauss and her family can't believe they are suddenly grieving their little loved one.

"His mother and I have had nothing but nightmares. I'm just so sad that this happened to my grandson," said Strauss.

Police said around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, officers went to Kennedy Recreation Complex on Wells Road in south St. Louis County and found Travone unresponsive in a swimming pool.

Police said lifeguards and paramedics performed CPR on Travone, but they couldn't save him. He died at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

"Terrifying messages. (His mother) just texted me—she was extremely nervous," said Strauss, who lives in Denver.

"In one message, my daughter told me T. J. drowned, and they have him in the ambulance trying to revive him. She also said she was at the hospital and waiting for him to arrive," recalled Strauss.

 And within minutes, Strauss received another text.

"She texted me back and she told me on the phone, 'T.J.'s gone.' It was like a bad dream because I just saw my grandson and family when I visited St. Louis last month. We are all just devastated," said Strauss.

St. Louis County spokesman Doug Moore said the county's parks and Recreation department is conducting an internal investigation.

They are talking to everyone who was there in the pool at the time and interviewing the five-day camp staff members who were on the pool grounds," Moore said.

Moore also said investigators "will review video taken from security cameras."

Meanwhile, Travone's grandma said she won't stop until she gets answers.

"I don't know why he was taken away from us. It's a great loss. I was thinking he would grow up and become a leader. He would be a star, a genius," Strauss said.

As of Thursday night, his parents were still planning his funeral. In addition to them, he is survived by three older siblings.

A family friend established a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.

Before You Leave, Check This Out