“People who could not speak for themselves, she was their microphone,” said Daniel W. Thomas, a chef in Washington.
He would know.
More than 30 years ago, when Mr. Thomas was about 1, social workers rescued him from a troubled home, he said. Ms. Bowser, who was working at Catholic Charities, saw him and immediately fell in love with him. Wanting to find him a good home, she called up one of her best friends, a pastor, and told him he needed to adopt the baby.
Ms. Bowser never had children of her own, but Mr. Thomas considered her his godmother. She was one of the first people he called when he learned he would be a chef at the U.S. Capitol, and when he served salmon and hamburgers to former President Barack Obama and his family as part of his inauguration festivities. Ms. Bowser, he said, had always pushed him to pursue his passion.
“I’m just trying to think about where would I be if that hadn’t happened,” Mr. Thomas said on Thursday, about a week after he had her taken to a hospital when she complained about not being able to breathe.
When Mr. Thomas was a teenager and Ms. Bowser’s health began to worsen, their roles reversed, and he said he started to “pay back the favor and blessing” that she had given him. He drove her to doctor’s appointments and visited her often; she eventually made him her power of attorney, he said.
Mr. Thomas said she first began feeling ill two weeks ago, and he drove her to a hospital where she tested positive for Covid-19. The doctors said it was safer for her to stay at home, but a few days later, she called him again: “Baby, it’s hard for me to breathe,” he recalled her saying over the phone. He had her taken to a hospital again, and before long, her condition worsened and she was put in an intensive care unit.
Her siblings, including the mayor, were able to visit her before she was intubated, Mr. Thomas said. Shortly before she died, he was able to visit her one more time, and he held a phone to her ear so that close friends unable to visit could give their goodbyes.