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A community remembers: Hundreds gather to honor late teacher, coach, husband and father

Richard Despain leads a group of Jim Stringer’s family and close friends to a reception following Thursday morning’s memorial service at Panther Stadium. Richard Despain leads a group of Jim Stringer’s family and close friends to a reception following Thursday morning’s memorial service at Panther Stadium. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

On a hot July morning best suited for the first two-a-day practices, Powell Panther football players, coaches and hundreds of their friends and family filled Panther Stadium to honor the late Jim Stringer.

Thursday’s hour-long memorial service featured emotional speeches by Stringer’s children, fellow coaches and friends.

Stringer’s family sat at field level, as did dozens of current and former Panther players and coaches. The home side’s bleachers overflowed with people who came from near and far to pay their respects to the teacher, coach, father and husband.

An extra set of bleachers was brought in to accommodate the crowd, and even then latecomers were left with standing room only.

Though the overwhelming attendance left no doubt, the words of the day’s speakers drove the point home: Jim Stringer will be missed.

Riley Stringer spoke of his father as a man who was everything to his son.

“The man I knew as a father taught me valuable life lessons and the values of honesty, respect, and love,” Riley Stringer said. “The best friend I knew was always there for me, willing to talk, hang out, or even cause a little trouble if I was feeling up to it.”

Jim Stringer was a teacher even when he wasn’t in the classroom.

“The teacher I knew taught me hard work, drive and dedication even on my laziest days,” Riley said. “The brother I knew was always on my side, he was always there for me, and always promised not to tell Mom.”

Kodi Stringer remembered her father fondly as a man who was never afraid to show his playful side. Her voice shook as she recounted the times Jim would come into her room and make her laugh by loudly singing along to her music.

Kooper Stringer cherished her favorite memories of her dad, from fishing (her catch was 10 times bigger than Jim’s) to watching movies.

She laughed as she told the crowd her father didn’t want to see “The Fault in Our Stars” because “he didn’t want people to see him cry in public.”

Kooper battled her own tears as she admitted that 14 years was not long enough to be with her dad, but thanked him “for our little infinity.”

Carter Baxter, one of Riley’s best friends and a fellow Panther football player, also was touched by coach Stringer’s musical flair, which he used as a motivational tool.

Baxter, an incoming senior, told the story of a day he found himself in the PHS weight room with little desire to lift.

“Coach Stringer made it apparent that my attitude was poor, but not in the way that you may assume,” Baxter said. “Instead of scolding me or pulling me aside, he fist-pumped and danced to the beat of the music.

“In a matter of seconds I was hysterically laughing ... From that moment on that day I was motivated and energized. And that was something that Coach did with ease.”

Baxter knew the Stringers, his neighbors, from a very young age.

“I would spend countless hours at the Stringers’ household,” Baxter said. “At first, Coach intimidated me, but as I continued to observe his actions and listen to his teachings, he evolved into a second father. He treated me as his own, and for that I am endlessly grateful.”

Richard Despain, a close friend and ally along the sidelines, thanked Jim for being someone who always understood and accepted him truly. Hunting trips won’t be as fun, or as funny, without his best friend, Despain said.

Nevin Jacobs, Stringer’s friend and a member of his coaching staff, bookended the service with solo renditions of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Jim and Jill Stringer’s wedding song, and “How Great Thou Art.”

Riley closed his speech with a final farewell to his father.

“Just like when I was little I would like to say one last time, ‘Good night daddy, and I love you.’”

Stringer was the Powell High School head football coach from 2003-14 and led the Panthers to four Class 3A state titles, including three in a row from 2011-13.

He was the head wrestling coach from 2001-02 to 2003-04 and was an assistant during the 2004-05 season. He taught earth science and biology at PHS.

Stringer was born in Denver on Aug. 23, 1969. He was 44 when he died.

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