Teacher adopts student with Down syndrome after his mom dies of cancer

Kerry Bremer honored a single parent's dying wish.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

Four years ago, special education teacher Kerry Bremer and Jean Manning, a terminally ill single mom of a son with Down syndrome, had a heart-wrenching conversation.

At the time, Bremer had only known Manning and her son Jake for a few months. They had just moved to Massachusetts, from Florida, and Jake was one of Bremer’s students at the CASE Collaborative School.

“I said, ‘I may be overstepping here and forgive me if I am, but my family and I would like to offer guardianship for Jake if you need a backup plan,’” Bremer, 52, told TODAY Parents.

Manning’s eyes filled with tears as she nodded her head yes. Though she had supportive relatives, no one was in a position to care for Jake.

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“She said, I’ll sleep better tonight than I have in a very long time,’” Bremer recalled. "Her biggest fear was what would happen to Jake after she passed."

Kerry Bremer and her husband, Dave Bremer, with Jake and Jean Manning. Courtesy of Kerry Bremer

For Bremer, it was a no-brainer.

“I fell in love with Jake instantly,” Bremer revealed. "I knew he would a need a home and there was no way I wouldn't open ours to him."

Last week, Bremer, who has three children of her own, became a mother of four after she honored Manning's dying wish.

On November 13, the day Manning passed away, 14-year-old Jake moved into the Bremer's home, which was already filled with his toys and clothes from countless sleepovers.

Bremer, her husband, Dave, and Manning worked together to make sure the transition would be as seamless as possible.

Jean Manning passed away on November 13. Courtesy of Kerry Bremer

“We would take Jake to appointments together and celebrate holidays together. Jean called him ‘our son,’” Bremer revealed. “That must have been so hard for her, to be planning for her death, but she did a beautiful job. She was so courageous.”

Jake calls Dave “Dave the Dad” and considers the Bremer kids— Kristen, 21, Jonathan, 19, and Kaitlyn, 16 — to be his siblings.

“It feels weird to be getting this attention,” Bremer said. “We never thought twice about it. I loved this kid so much. He has done more for us than we could ever do for him."