Sophia Sappa, left, the sister of Gabriel Coury, and their parents Michael and Shellie Coury. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Sophia Sappa, left, the sister of Gabriel Coury, and their parents Michael and Shellie Coury. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Candlelight vigil honors Kent Little League catcher Gabriel Coury | Photos

‘It’s certainly not a place any parent should have to be,’ father says about death of 12-year-old son

Michael Coury stood behind home plate as he searched for the right words to honor the life of his son, Gabriel Coury, 12, killed just nine days earlier in Kent by an alleged drunk driver as he rode a scooter home from a park.

Shellie Coury stood alongside her husband to provide comfort and support as he prepared to speak to more than a hundred people gathered at a candlelight vigil July 20 at Ryan Brunner Field, the same spot where Gabriel played catcher for his Kent Little League team weeks earlier for what was expected to be his last game of the season. ...not the final game of his life.

“I can’t help but look out at this field right now and feel a tremendous amount of love and support,” Michael Coury said as the words began to flow on the warm, sunny evening as people watched from the outfield, away from the smooth infield that displayed his son’s number. “And it’s all because of number 14, my son, Gabriel Lee Coury.”

The father tried to put the loss of his young son in perspective, if that’s even possible after such a tragedy.

“It’s unfortunate that I’m standing here today and it’s certainly not a place any parent should have to be,” Michael Coury said. “But I’m beyond humbled by every single one of you here today, every single one of you that reached out over the past week. Knowing how much you all care not only about our family but about Gabriel and who he was and the impact he had on your lives, whether big or small.”

Earlier in the evening, Tim Smith, head coach of Gabriel’s Little League team, the Mariners, shared how hard he worked with Gabriel to learn to throw his mask off while playing catcher to chase a ball or throw to a base.

“He struggled to get that mask off. ...he wanted to do it, but couldn’t do it,” said Smith, who found out Gabe was concerned about injuring the umpire or delaying the game if he threw his mask. “I sat Gabe down and explained to him umpires have plenty of safety gear. You’re not going to hurt them with a mask.”

Assistant coach Dollen Stroup said that when trying to find positions for each player, Gabe had one option.

“He didn’t want to play any other position, catcher was it,” Stroup said.

Gabe’s sister, Sophia Sappa (Coury), certainly influenced that decision. Sophia plays catcher for the Kentwood High School fastpitch softball team. She earned North Puget Sound League honorable mention this past season as a junior.

Sophia also practiced with her brother, including just a couple of weeks prior to his death at the Little League batting cages.

“I was so proud of him because he’s come such a long ways from the little kid I met to such a brave young man,” Sophia said at the candlelight vigil. “And to watch him improve with baseball, that was our bonding, our thing together. I’m so proud of him, even now and I loved him so much. You did good Gabriel, I’m proud of you.”

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph spoke briefly at the vigil after she approved the Kent Little League’s suggestion about installing a city sign along 132nd Avenue SE near the crash site that reads, “Please Don’t Drink and Drive. In Memory of Gabriel Lee Coury.”

“I want Gabe’s memory to be honored in a way that let’s everyone know that this loss shouldn’t ever happen again,” Ralph said. “There is absolutely no reason and my hope is, although it doesn’t change this tragedy, but that it saves another life.”

King County prosecutors have charged Carson Alexander Quinlin, 19, of Maple Valley, with vehicular homicide and reckless driving for reportedly hitting Gabe while driving drunk at 60 mph in a 35 mph zone and losing control of his pickup. Gabe was riding his scooter home from a park along the shoulder of 132nd Avenue SE near SE 230th Street just before 7 p.m.

Kent Little League also lost a 12-year-old player in 1994. Ryan Brunner died while rafting the Wenatchee River. The league renamed its fields to honor Ryan, whose father and family were a big part of the program.

“When I heard of the tragic accident (with Gabriel), it hit hard,” said Travis Brunner, who spoke at the vigil. “My brother was 12 when he passed as well. The news stories I’ve been able to read and get through, Gabe sounded just like my brother. He loved the sport, loved family, loved school and exemplifies what kids should be doing these days.”

Brunner, a King County Sheriff’s Office deputy assigned to the SeaTac Police Department, said he appreciated how Kent Little League honored his brother.

“I know Kent Little League will continue to step up and keep Gabe’s memory alive,” Brunner said. “They’ve done it 29 years for Ryan.”

Kent Little League will display a plaque and photo of Gabriel at Ryan Brunner Field. The league also will retire his number 14.

“He’s going to be missed in every single one of us, and I know he’s smiling down right now knowing how much he was loved and seeing every single one of you honoring him,” his father Michael Coury said as the words came a bit easier speaking to the crowd. “I appreciate the support and kindness you have shown our family. ...Despite his only 12 years here on earth, the impact he’s had is worth a lifetime.

“I’m gonna miss him dearly, missing him play at this field and other fields along the way.”


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A crowd fills the outfield at a July 20 candlelight vigil for Gabriel Coury. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

A crowd fills the outfield at a July 20 candlelight vigil for Gabriel Coury. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

The Kent community turned out to support the family of Gabriel Coury, killed July 11 by an alleged drunk driver. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

The Kent community turned out to support the family of Gabriel Coury, killed July 11 by an alleged drunk driver. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Michael Coury, the father of Gabriel, receives a hug. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Michael Coury, the father of Gabriel, receives a hug. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Michael Coury, the father of Gabriel, prepares to thank the crowd for its support as his wife, Shellie Coury stands next to him. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Michael Coury, the father of Gabriel, prepares to thank the crowd for its support as his wife, Shellie Coury stands next to him. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Shellie Coury, the mother of Gabriel, receives a hug as family members stand nearby. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Shellie Coury, the mother of Gabriel, receives a hug as family members stand nearby. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent Little League will display this photo at Ryan Brunner Fields. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent Little League will display this photo at Ryan Brunner Fields. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

A friend talks about Gabriel Coury as Michael Coury looks on. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

A friend talks about Gabriel Coury as Michael Coury looks on. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph offers her condolences to the Coury family. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph offers her condolences to the Coury family. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

The city of Kent will display this sign along 132nd Avenue SE near where Gabriel Coury was hit and killed. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

The city of Kent will display this sign along 132nd Avenue SE near where Gabriel Coury was hit and killed. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Sophia Sappa, sister of Gabriel Coury, talks about her brother’s improvement in baseball. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Sophia Sappa, sister of Gabriel Coury, talks about her brother’s improvement in baseball. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent Little League teammates of Gabriel Coury participate in the candlelight vigil. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent Little League teammates of Gabriel Coury participate in the candlelight vigil. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Gabriel Coury’s Kent Little League teammates gather at the pitcher’s mound. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Gabriel Coury’s Kent Little League teammates gather at the pitcher’s mound. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

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