Leigh Landry remembers her stepbrother Troy Champion as perhaps the most laid back person she’d ever known, but also someone she could count on to be there for her in any time of need — be it major or minor.
It’s why she can’t help but become emotional when she speaks about who he was. Champion, a Paradis native, passed away late last month at the age of 34 due to complications from coronavirus.
Champion lived in Paradis his entire life until moving to New Orleans in 2013, where he bartended for a living. He felt a kinship with the city, Landry said, and that brought him there.
“He knew what he wanted, and he wanted to be a bartender,” Landry said. “He knew he wanted to be in New Orleans. He loved it. He was so carefree. Troy was definitely a go with the flow kind of person.”
“A week later, he couldn’t breathe.”
Approachable and friendly, Champion had numerous friends. The news of his passing brought an outpouring of support on social media, with one friend of his posting a video of Champion holding court on a night out. Landry said it was a brief, wonderful snapshot of who her brother truly was.
“It took me awhile to watch it but … just, that was him,” Landry said. “He was so funny. When I watch that and read the things people wrote about him after he passed, it comforts me because I know I wasn’t the only person who knew he was a great person.”
On the week of his death, Champion was admitted to the hospital after falling ill several days earlier. The week before he went to the hospital, he had swelling and his liver levels were found to be abnormal after undergoing bloodwork.
“A week later, he couldn’t breathe,” Landry said.
He was tested for COVID-19 at the hospital. Two days later, results were in and the test was positive. Late that night and early the next morning, his situation worsened, and things became dire. Doctors informed the family that his kidneys and liver were failing, and his heart was starting to fail. He was also found to not be a candidate for dialysis.
His family had to prepare to say goodbye, but given the circumstances brought by the pandemic, an already difficult situation was made that much more painful. Just one visitor was permitted in person. That was Champion’s father, while his stepmother and others close to him said goodbye through the video call app FaceTime.
“He’d make a good drink, tell you a great joke.”
“It’s hard,” Landry said through tears. “There was no closure. We weren’t able to see him before they cremated him. My stepdad went into self-quarantine out of caution … so it’s not like we can all mourn or celebrate his life together. We’ve all taken it pretty hard.
“When Troy was around, it was always a good time. He’d make a good drink, tell you a great joke … to know he’s gone now, no holidays, no birthdays … it’s not easy.”
Landry said the two hung out with different crowds throughout their lives, but it didn’t change the bond they shared through it all.
“He was easy to get along with – except when we were younger. Brothers and sisters fight,” she said with a laugh. “When he was home and I was coming in from somewhere, or vice versa, we’d go sit on our porches and whatever went on that night, whether it was funny, sad … we’d talk about it. He’s heard me cry more times than I can count. He was always there for me, no matter what I needed … whether I was happy, angry, sad, he was talking to me and trying to put me in a better place.”
On March 29, Landry made a heartfelt post to her own Facebook page after his death. She called Champion “an incredible, lovable soul with the most infectious smile.” She warned that COVID-19 “is real” and not to downplay or underestimate the virus, as she and her family had seen its effects all too closely.
The post garnered nearly 400 likes and 200 comments and was shared 40 times. Landry said she didn’t expect such a response, but hopes the knowledge can help someone.
“If one person saw what I wrote and said, ‘Hey, I know him,’ … and understands this is serious and that if it happens, you can’t be there with your family and that you can’t afford to play around with this, then I at least know Troy didn’t die in vain,” Landry said.