WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) – A 10-year-old Williamsburg boy is being remembered for his kind spirit and old soul.
Everything seemed normal the week before Christmas for the Peck family, until their son, Josh, started feeling sick.
He died eleven days later.
Now this local military family is remembering the positive memories they shared and celebrating his love for all things classic.
Josh Peck would always tell people he was from Germany, because that’s where he was born when his dad was stationed there.
Josh wasn’t your ordinary kid. He was unique, with a love for vintage Volkswagens. He also helped kindergarteners in the computer lab and collected items for the lost and found then actively searched for the kids who lost them.
He liked all cars but vintage Volkswagens were his favorite, because his parents had a Yellow ’74 Beetle when he was little.
“Anytime we were outside, he would pretend like he was working on it,” said Matt Peck. “I’d let him sit in the driver’s seat with the gear shift. He would pretend he was driving it.”
He was even hoping he’d find an old VW bus to fix up someday.
“We always told him that’s not too realistic, you don’t just find a van. Then he met someone who did, so that was challenging,” said Josh’s mom, Christina Peck.
Everything all seemed normal the week before Christmas, until it wasn’t. The family attended a Christmas party on Saturday, days later he was intubated in the hospital.
“You’re always afraid they’re going to fall off their bike and hit their head, something physical like that,” said Matt.
Josh originally started complaining of ear pain, but since he swims, his parents thought it was swimmer’s ear. The pain went away, then Josh started throwing up.
“We took him to urgent care and they just thought it was a stomach bug because he really wasn’t presenting any other signs,” said Matt. “We brought him home, he started kind of getting delirious, not really making sense so we took him to the ER.”
From there every step forward was like two steps back.
“They took one look at him, ordered some tests then came back and said he probably has meningitis,” said Matt.
Josh was flown to CHKD in Norfolk. On the way, he stopped breathing and Matt and Christina later learned he had a stroke.
“The biggest issue wasn’t really the meningitis as opposed to the complications due to it, because just with all the swelling there was no place for the pressure to go so it just compounded on the brain stem,” said Matt.
“To know that this happened and there’s nothing they could do for him,” said Christina. “We just want him back.”
Josh was admitted to the hospital six days before Christmas, and died five days after.
CHKD Director of Infection Prevention and Control, Dr. Laura Sass, says meningitis isn’t common because kids are vaccinated against most strains.
If your child has a fever, headache or especially neck pain, those are signs to see a doctor, just like the Pecks did.
“You know when your child is not acting normal,” said Dr. Sass.
Dr. Sass says not every case is deadly or even warrants a doctor, but parents know best.
“You want to be able to touch your chin to your chest like this,” said Dr. Sass. “When you have meningitis, it’s inflamed and your head hurts.”
Matt and Christina say they feel like a piece of them is missing.
Josh’s little brother, James, misses sitting on the couch playing video games together.
And baby Josephine turned one month old the day Josh was admitted to the hospital.
“He was so excited to be her big brother,” said Christina.
But they’ll have so many stories to tell her about her big brother someday.
Stories of kindness and compassion.
“He was the one at school that would help push someone in a wheelchair or help the kids during recess, like on the playground if there was a hole, he was always be like ‘hey, we have to fill this in someone is going to twist their ankle,'” said Matt.
“He had a certain kind of empathy that you don’t see in a normal 10-year-old,” said Christina.
In just a matter of days after Josh’s death, support for the Peck Family rolled on in from near and far.
A GoFundMe Page raised more than $40,000 in the days following Josh’s death.
Matt and Christina wanted to incorporate Josh’s love of classic cars into the memorial service, and vintage car owners came from all over the state.
“It felt like the right thing to do,” said Joe Whitlock.
Whitlock brought his ’61 beetle, fully equipped with a sticker that says “Ridin’ with Josh.”
“It’s got a silhouette of a Volkswagen, but that’s not just for today, it’s going to be on our cars until the sun takes him away,” said Whitlock.
Riding off in that yellow ’74 beetle, probably singing a little karaoke, or playing his guitar, most likely helping someone somewhere along the way.
“You remember the good things and you want those things back, but you can’t get them so you remember,” said Matt.
Josh’s family wants to honor him by donating to the things he loved, like fixing up the computer lab at school or helping kids with disabilities.
If you’d like to donate in honor of Josh, the Peck family has set up a Memorial Fund.
Meningitis Information From the CDC: