Beloved former youth football coach in Springfield dies at 40

Cornell Strother, center, is pictured with Woodberry Forest players.

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Cornell Strother, center, is pictured with Woodberry Forest players.

Cornell Strother, a father of five, coached in his native Virginia in recent years

Cornell Strother moved from Ohio back to his native Virginia in 2016 but spent many years coaching youth football in Springfield and left an impact that will last for years.

“The kids him loved as a coach on and off field,” said Shawnda Watterson, the mother of Strother’s oldest daughter, Sophia, 9. “He had many players that he would meet up with on the weekends or throughout the week and help them one on one. He had a lot of close relationships with a lot of football players personally and then as a coach. If the kid had things going on at home with family, he just tried to be there for him.”

Strother, 40, a father of five, died Jan. 6 at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Va., weeks after suffering a brainstem stroke. His family will hold a memorial service for him at Northridge United Methodist at 4610 Derr Road in Springfield from 3-6 p.m. Saturday.

Strother, a graduate of Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, coached the defensive line at Woodberry Forest School near Charlottesville for the last five years.

“It is a sad day as we mourn the loss of Cornell Strother,” read a Twitter post by the Woodberry Forest athletics account. “He was a great father, partner, and coach. Our boys were blessed to have known him and be coached by him. Peace to his family. Cornell will be remembered.”

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More than 20 years ago, Strother moved to Springfield and worked at Assurant. That’s when he started coaching the Springfield Little Tigers and later his son Brayden, who’s now 15 and an eighth grader at Catholic Central. Brayden’s mom is Kimberly Walker Strother, of Springfield.

In Virginia, Strother was engaged to Megan Hunt, and the couple had three kids: Malachi, 3; and 8-month-old twins, Isaiah and Isabella.

“He truly was amazing man wonderful coach,” Hunt said. “He inspired so many young men on and off the field. He was always there for them no matter what they needed if it was football or just someone to talk to. He was such amazing father to his kids. I got to watch him coach for five years. His love for the game was so much more than just football. He truly loved that sport. To watch him help young guys was just so amazing. He always wanted them to do better and be better and to make something for themselves.”

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Cornell Strother and his children: Brayden, 15, top; 8-month-old twins, Isaiah and Isabella, in his arms; Sophia, 9, center, and; Malachi, 3, right.

Cornell Strother and his children: Brayden, 15, top; 8-month-old twins, Isaiah and Isabella, in his arms; Sophia, 9, center, and; Malachi, 3, right.

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Cornell Strother and his children: Brayden, 15, top; 8-month-old twins, Isaiah and Isabella, in his arms; Sophia, 9, center, and; Malachi, 3, right.

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Cornell Strother and family: fiancée Megan Hunt; 8-month-old twins, Isabella and Isaiah; and Malachi, 3.

Cornell Strother and family: fiancée Megan Hunt; 8-month-old twins, Isabella and Isaiah; and Malachi, 3.

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Cornell Strother and family: fiancée Megan Hunt; 8-month-old twins, Isabella and Isaiah; and Malachi, 3.

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