POWELL, Wyo. – The Powell community came together Thursday to pay tribute to Powell High School football head coach Jim Stringer, who died July 18 of a heart attack.
Stringer, 44, is survived by his wife, Jill, and three children, Riley, Kodi and Kooper.
With temperatures reaching into the 90s, more than 2,000 friends and family members packed the bleachers at Panther Stadium. The 90-minute memorial service was a chance for the Powell community and others from around the state to remember Stringer as a coach and teacher and, more importantly, as a father and husband.
“We’re here to honor Jim, comfort each other and talk about hope,” said Cody Johnson, the campus director for Campus Ventures and Foundation for Christian Discipleship and who served as the main speaker.
And that was the overwhelming message over the next hour-and-a-half as speakers ranging from assistant coach and longtime Stringer friend Richard Despain to incoming Powell senior Carter Baxter remembered Stringer.
Despain and Baxter both mentioned how Stringer had the ability to take a tough situation and turn it into a learning experience. He could also bring a smile to anyone’s face, even under the most difficult circumstances.
“I have heard a lot of people say this week that there are no words,” Despain said. “This is truly one of those times, because words cannot express what I feel inside.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Stringer’s three children, all of whom fought through tears to recall what their father meant to them.
“There are over a billion words in this world,” Kodi Stringer said. “But none of them can describe how much my dad meant to me. … Fourteen years isn’t a long time, but I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend with my dad.”
Speaking last, Riley Stringer, an incoming senior, mentioned how everyone in attendance had a “special relationship with my dad.” The connection between father and son — a two-time all-state player and state champion wrestler — undoubtedly was also special.
“My dad was my best friend, my coach, my teacher, and on top of all that he still managed to be a brother to me,” Riley said.
During his 11 years as the Panthers' head coach, Jim Stringer had cemented himself as one of the top coaches in the state. He compiled a record of 70-42 and won four state titles at Powell. The Panthers enter this season with a 27-game winning streak, having won three consecutive Class 3A state championships.
Fittingly, more than 80 past and present Powell football players were on hand, clad in their black game jerseys with orange lettering and numbers.
Before the service started, the players walked through an inflatable Powell Panthers tunnel as Kenny Chesney’s “Boys of Fall” played over the loudspeakers.
The service ended with these final words from Riley: “Just like when I was little, I’d like to say one last time, “Good night, daddy. And I love you.”
Riley Stringer then called the jersey-clad players together. With Conway Twitty’s “That’s My Job” serving as a backdrop, the players joined hands, stretching from sideline to sideline with the Panther “P” burning behind them.
They walked the length of the field in unison before huddling together in the south end zone. They raised their hands and shouted “Panthers” one more time.