- Associated Press - Monday, July 11, 2011

BROWNWOOD, Texas — Hundreds of friends and family joined a funeral procession Monday for 39-year-old Lt. Shannon Stone, who was fatally injured trying to catch a souvenir baseball at a Texas Rangers game.

Lt. Stone’s widow, Jenny, and the couple’s 6-year-old son, Cooper, walked hand-in-hand behind a fire truck carrying the casket on a scorching day in central Texas. The pallbearers included 10 fellow firefighters, men who knew Lt. Stone and some given their nicknames by the 18-year veteran of the Brownwood Fire Department.

More than 60 emergency vehicles were in the line of cars headed to a cemetery eight miles from the church. Trash collectors and farmers pulled over to join hundreds of people lining the streets, hands over their hearts, as the procession passed by.

Nearly 1,000 people crowded inside the church for a private memorial honoring Lt. Stone, with speakers fondly recalling his kindness, love of baseball and skill as both a firefighter and a loving father.

Fire department chaplain David Fair read notes from family members and friends. He kept the mood light, telling funny stories and offering a Top 10 list that actually had 11 items because, a relative joked, Lt. Stone wasn’t the best at math. He said the couple had only one child because Lt. Stone loved Cooper so much he didn’t know whether he had any more love to give.

Johnson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Russek II knew Lt. Stone for more than 20 years and worked with his father and brother. He found the service “uplifting.”

“They really, really captured the essence of what he was — a really good guy with a good sense of humor,” Sgt. Russek said. “He cared about people, like a true servant.”

Lt. Stone had taken young Cooper to a Rangers game in Arlington on Thursday night, interrupting the three-hour drive with a stop to buy the boy a new glove. They were sitting in left field behind Cooper’s favorite player, Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton threw them a foul ball in the second inning, but the thrill quickly turned tragic. Lt. Stone fell headfirst about 20 feet onto concrete, with Cooper watching.

Witnesses said he was conscious after landing and spoke about Cooper being left alone. Lt. Stone was pronounced dead within an hour; an autopsy ruled the cause as blunt force trauma from the fall.

Lt. Stone, a Brownwood firefighter since 1993, was voted Firefighter of the Year twice by his peers, according to the mayor. He worked as a paramedic and as a rescue technician at Texas Motor Speedway and was involved in disaster relief following Hurricanes Katrina and Ike.

In 2007, Lt. Stone and another firefighter ran into a smoke-filled home in nearby Bangs to rescue a woman in her 70s, according to story in the Brownwood Bulletin newspaper. He received a distinguished service award from the department for bravery and dedication, but he explained the heroics as simply being “in the right place at the right time.”

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