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A gentle giant falls



Published: Thu, August 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Warren residents mourned the passing of the former Hardingfootball star.

By JOHN BASSETTI

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

WARREN -- There was a media buzz in this city Wednesday morning following the death of Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer, who spent the majority of his 27 years in west side neighborhoods.

News trucks scoured the streets looking for links to Stringer, who died following the effects of heat stroke during training camp in Minnesota on Tuesday.

"It's a complete shock," said Don Emerson as he exited the Municipal Justice Building downtown.

"Our families were friends," said Emerson, the executive director of the Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority. "But you'd think they'd have better medical care in camp."

Parents: About a mile away on the west side, a few houses down from Stringer's grandparents' two-story house on Fourth Street, Robert Fulton talked with a woman about Stringer's parents.

"Korey's dad [James] grew up in that house," said Fulton, who graduated from high school with Korey's father in 1966.

"And his wife grew up next door," Fulton said of childhood sweetheart Cathy Reed as he pointed at a tiny ranch house.

"It's a sad day in Warren," Fulton said. "You seldom get someone unique who grew up in this community."

In the small house where Korey's mom grew up now lives Korey's aunt, Rebecca Reed, and two cousins, Janese and Rikki.

A few doors down lives George Crawley, who graduated from Warren Western Reserve High in 1970, a year after Korey Stringer's mother.

"He was a good role model for this area," Crawley said. "It's a feather in our cap to have someone that successful."

Former teammate: Daniel Simpson, a football teammate of Stringer's at Warren Harding in 1990, stood a few blocks away at Wade's Auto Body.

"We were the only Harding football players wrestling for coach Doug Dennis and the Warren YMCA that year," said Simpson, 27, now a truck driver. "Korey became successful and never changed. He was soft-spoken and low-key. He was a gentle giant. I feel sorry for his wife and kid. His family is in my prayers and I hope they get through this thing."

Just up the street at Gates Beauty Supply was store owner Richard Shivers.

"He was a positive symbol for youngsters around here," Shivers said. "He was respected and well-liked."

After James and Cathy Stringer married, they moved to Southwest Boulevard in the Palmyra Heights section. Korey's parents and sister now live elsewhere in Warren, although brother Kevin still lives on Southwest.

Johnnie Sugick has lived across the street on Southwest for 35 years. He remembers seeing the Stringer boys going to and from school. Sugick said he worked with Korey's mother's mother, Mrs. Vera Barnes, who died in April.

Good kid: Also nearby was Jerome Diggs, recreation director for the Trumbull Community Action Program.

Diggs, closer in age with another well-known Warren sports family -- the Browners -- said he knew Stringer from recreation programs and from playing in high school.

"He was well-liked. He never seemed to get into trouble. A lot of people were proud of him. Even after he made it big, he seemed to remember everyone in the area. It was his dream to play football."

Along Route 422, John Taylor of Niles seemed upset upon hearing of the circumstances surrounding Stringer's death.

"I blame the organization," Taylor barked. "Coaches are under so much pressure to win that they've got to practice in the 90-degree heat?

"Why don't they practice early in the morning or at night like former Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam's father did when he coached at Tennessee State?"

bassetti@vindy.com




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