'We know now that there's no reason for you to die from HIV'
EUGENE, Ore. - Joelle Rankins-Goodwin still has 75 pairs of shoes designed by her brother.
"I have no idea what I'm going to do with all of them," she said. "Most of them do not fit me. But it's a piece of my big brother that I like being able to have and hang on to."
The shoes were all designed by Joelle's late brother, Scott Rankins.
Far before his fashion career soared, it was clear that he was an artist.
"I grew up loving my Barbies," Joelle said. "I had the best dressed Barbies around because my brother would create fashions for them."
Scott's family helped him cultivate his talent.
"I was the one that sent him to the art school when he was in high school," said Connee Cuie, Scott's mother. "He was drawing all the time. And I thought: Who knows what'll happen with this?"
What happened was an adventure - from Portland to Los Angeles to New York.
His studies would later take him to Italy, where he launched his shoe line.
"He surprised himself, and he certainly surprised me," Connee said. "I was so delighted when he got the Fulbright scholarship. He went to Italy not knowing a word of Italian."
Scott's family said his shoes were sold at stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and worn by celebrities like Tina Turner.
Things were so good.
But in 1999, when Scott came to visit Joelle in Florida, he didn't look like his normal self.
"When he got off the plane, I knew right then and there that there was something dreadfully wrong," she said.
His complexion was off. His face was bloated.
Joelle took him to the doctor right away.
"The doctor informed us that he was in complete and total renal failure," she said, "and you need to go to the emergency room right now."
They went to the emergency room.
Doctors ran tests.
The results: Scott was HIV positive, and he had full blown AIDS.
Scott's life ended just two months later. He was 40 years old.
"That's one of the things that I always get mad about," Joelle said. "I get really mad. Because we know now that there's no reason for you to die from HIV."
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Scott's life inspired Joelle to take action.
She served on the board of directors for the HIV Alliance, and she speaks at awareness events.
"Young folks need to know that HIV is here," she said. "It has not gone away and that here are the things that you can do to prevent it."
Because of HIV, a mother is without a son, a sister without her brother.
But 17 years later, his humor and his warmth are still as present as ever.
"He had a way of getting his big ol' arm around me and just kind of grabbing my head," Joelle said. "It was the way he held me."
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