The night of May 18, Brother Bey had a terrible headache. He went to bed in Camden, but his headache led to nausea. At 1:30 a.m. May 19 he woke up suffering a stroke and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
Doctors gave him very little chance of recovering from his coma, but his friends and family believed and believe in him in Cooper University Hospital.
"He is not able to talk, not able to walk at the present moment, but he is communicating with his eyes, and he makes all sorts of facial expressions," said his mother, Pearl Hopkins, of Camden. "He blinks one for yes and two for no."
He has always had an electric, magnetic personality, she said. He missed his high school graduation ceremony at Camden High School because he had already decided at the time that he wanted to be an electrical (later chemical) engineer and had started a program that took him to several college campuses to learn about engineering. He loves knowing how things work, understanding things.
"He used to stick the eight-tracks in the player, and he'd take it out, and look at it, and he'd put it back in and then he'd take it out," Hopkins said, laughing at the memory. "He'd try to get his fingers in the eight-track player to see how that worked. One time he did that and he pulled it, and the tape came all the way out. He was trying to put it back in, and it was a mess."
Somewhere along the line, his interests switched to the arts and poetry.
"He just started becoming a great poet," said Sandra Turner-Barnes, executive director of the Culture and Heritage Commission at Camden County College. She has known Bey, a program coordinator there, nearly 15 years. "He started to really love it and to learn more about it, to start reading it and then he started taking a class."
In 2010, Jean was working in an art studio in Haiti when a massive earthquake shook his country. In the aftermath, Gina Yacovelli, a middle-school art teacher at the Riverfront School in Florence Township, met Jean, who was working in an art studio in the orphanage she was volunteering to help rebuild.
They stayed in touch, and in 2012 Jean moved to South Jersey, where he met Bey, and later opened up his gallery, which he now runs with Yacovelli.
On July 10, the Frandy Jean Gallery will hold a special event to help with the medical costs related to Bey's strokes. They are going to sell a giant portrait of Bey, painted by Jean, with 50 percent of the proceeds going directly to Bey's medical bills.
"While they're making a purchase of Frandy's artwork, they're also helping Brother Bey," Yacovelli said. "So it's kind of a two-for-one deal."
The event will be 6 to 8 p.m. at East Atlantic Avenue and Station Avenue in Haddon Heights. For more information, call 856-448-4644.