Houston Bureau Chief Kent Demaret, 50, was David's friend for all 12 years of his life. Kent first met David's family while doing a story for LIFE on the 3-month-old Bubble Boy in 1972. From then on he probably knew more about David than anyone, except the family and the medical staff that treated him.
"David was fascinated with outer space," Kent recalls, "and was delighted with whatever pictures I could snag from NASA showing the moon walk and close-ups of the various planets. David last called me when he was in the hospital to say thanks for a book I had sent him for his 12th birthday."
Almost immediately after David's death, publications all over the world began asking for his story. But David's mother, Carol Ann, knew that she could work only with someone who shared her special knowledge of what David's life had been like. She turned to Kent for help in writing the story, and together they spent two anguished months working on it.
For Kent it was the most difficult period in his 32 years as a newsman. A native Houstonian, he was assistant city editor of the old Houston Press at age 26 and later worked on two other local papers. He was on PEOPLE's first masthead in 1974.
As our bureau chief, Kent brings to his search for stories not only his own strong news credentials but an uncanny sense of the offbeat and arcane.
In following David's condition, while doctors and other news people were awaiting some signs of bone-marrow transplant activity, Kent's feelings were always guided by hope. "I believed he would recover and that I someday would be able to tell the story of how he learned to live in a world outside his bubble," he says.
Kent was deeply affected by David's death. "I mourn the loss of this heroic man-child, and I know I always will," he says. "That his family asked me to have a part in telling his story has been the most painful endeavor of my life—and one of the highest honors I shall ever receive."
Publishing David's story was our honor too.