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Ishmael Jefferson, father of four who 'looked out for everybody,' dies at 22

Ishmael Jefferson graduated from Hempstead High School.

Ishmael Jefferson graduated from Hempstead High School. Credit: Gypsy Jefferson

Ishmael Jefferson couldn’t resist helping someone in need. Whether it was giving a friend a ride to Boston, loaning someone money or doing a good deed for the homeless, the 22-year-old Hempstead resident was always willing to lend a hand.

“He looked out for everybody,” said his mother, Gypsy Jefferson, 51. “There’s so much that young man did. He left a huge impact on a lot of people’s lives.”

The father of four's generosity extended not only to his friends and family, but to perfect strangers. As a teenager, Jefferson would care for the homeless in his neighborhood, sneaking food out of his home for them. 

Jefferson died on Jan. 3 after he lost control of the 2015 Infiniti he was driving on the Southern State Parkway, hitting a tree in the center median. Passengers Tony Porter of Westbury and Ja-Asia Hasty of Hempstead were also killed in the crash, while another passenger, Ty-Jeneyah Cruz, was seriously injured. Police believe speeding was a factor.

Kashawn Goldsby describes Jefferson as a friend he could always count on. Recently, Goldsby called Jefferson when he needed a last-minute ride to play a gig in Boston.

“He stopped everything he was doing and drove me there,” said Goldsby, 24, of Inwood. “Since the day I met him, he was a genuine person who showed genuine love. He would go out of his way to make someone happy; he was that type of person.”

Goldsby met Jefferson in 2015 and the two quickly bonded over their mutual love of hip-hop. Jefferson’s playlist included established artists, as well as lesser-known up-and-comers. Inspired by what he heard, he had recently started recording his own songs in the studio.

Jefferson was born on Nov. 4, 1997, the youngest of Gypsy Jefferson’s eight children. As a child, he was fast-talking and spirited, growing into a smart, curious teenager.

“Even at 14, 15 years old, he was so intelligent and it was so refreshing,” said Jefferson’s brother, Quran Mann. “I have always been hard-pressed to find someone I could have those kinds of conversations with that I had with him. Even at a young age, his ability to connect with people was beyond.”

As teens, Mann and Jefferson would spend summer days at the pool, followed by trips to get Chinese food where they would talk about politics and government.

“He was dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. He always had to question things and get to the root of something,” Mann said. “He always wanted to know why.”

In 2015 during his senior year at Hempstead High School, where he would later graduate, Jefferson was offered a scholarship to Virginia State University. But the 18-year-old turned it down, after news that his girlfriend at the time was expecting. The pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, but Jefferson later became the proud father of Jayceon, 3, Skyler, 3, Amir, 1, and Jaelyn, 1 month old. 

“He would do anything for his kids, [they] came first,” Goldsby said. “He was a great dad and he went out of his way for them.”

Having children changed Jefferson, sparking in him a desire to “make it big” so he could take care of them, said his sister, Shovanta Jefferson.

“That was his driving passion, trying to build a life for his kids,” Mann said. “Once they came, he shifted from having a self-centered objective to wanting to build something for them and making sure they were OK.”

Jefferson had recently completed paperwork to go back to school, with dreams of going into the field of business law. Mann said his goal was to one day be a CEO.

“He wanted to be on top, so no one had to worry,” Mann said. “He wanted me and my brothers and his sisters and his kids to have the world.”

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