George Floyd was laid to rest Tuesday next to his mother

By Wendy Grossman Kantor
June 10, 2020 02:00 PM
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George Floyd

In his final moments, which were captured on video to the horror of millions of people, George Floyd called out for his mother.

On Tuesday, he was laid to rest next to the woman he loved more than anything, close friend Tiffany Cofield tells PEOPLE.

Cofield remembers Floyd gently helping his mother do physical therapy exercises after her stroke several years ago and dancing with her in her wheelchair.

“He was very gentle, kind and loving. His mother, she had a stroke and she was fragile. He’s a big guy. He’s 6-foot-6 and he has big hands, and he’s very strong, but when he would pick her up, he would dance with her,” says Cofield, 35.

She remembers him gently helping his mother with her physical therapy stretches after her stroke. And she remembers Floyd laughing, joking, and spinning his mother around in her wheelchair so she could dance.

“He was very gentle with his mother,” Cofield says. “He knew he had strength. If he ever really wanted to, he could probably cause some really serious damage. But that wasn’t his demeanor. That wasn’t his spirit.”

In 2015, when Cofield was working with kids at a charter school in Houston, students from the Third Ward — the predominantly Black neighborhood where Floyd lived most of his life — told her she had to meet “Big Floyd.”

Tiffany Cofield and George Floyd
Courtesy Tiffany Cofield

“He was seen as a community icon,” she says. “He was always in the 'hood. He was always a very positive role model. He always had something positive to say. He was very encouraging, he was very uplifting. He spent a lot of time giving back.”

The two formed a close bond, and together delivered food to senior citizens and did several volunteer projects with the Angel By Nature Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Houston rap artist Trae Tha Truth for which Cofield once worked as a community outreach director.

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"Anytime I would do stuff with kids in the community, he would show up and lend a hand,” Trae Tha Truth previously told PEOPLE.

George Floyd

Cofield has memories of Floyd lifting his 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, up in the air and flying her like an airplane, or sometimes pulling her in a red wagon down the street. She remembers him buying chips and candy for kids in the neighborhood. And she remembers him eating big bowls of oatmeal with peanut butter, and playing basketball in the neighborhood.

RELATED VIDEO: George Floyd's Family Says Goodbye at Houston Funeral

But her fondest memories are of Floyd spending time with his mother, including watching the Houston Texans with her.

“She’d get her Dr. Pepper and be excited,” says Cofield, who took Floyd’s mother to doctor's appointments and gave her pedicures after her stroke.

“I love the way that he loved his mother. More than anything, he loved his mother,” Cofield says.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

•Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.