Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, Calif. mourns Kobe Bryant‘s sudden and tragic death.
The parish held a rosary service on Monday for the helicopter crash’s nine victims, including fellow parishioners Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Bryant reportedly attended the parish for many years.
The parishioners said they “absolutely loved” him. They explained that “there was a side of Kobe Bryant that many people didn’t know.”
Parishioners recalled their memories of the retired basketball player, referring to him as “humble,” “a devout Catholic,” a dedicated husband and father, and “a true man of God.”
NBC Los Angeles interviewed several Catholics who knew him.
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Crying as she spoke, parishioner Heny Russell said, “They are very humble people…When I give him communion I have to put my arm and feet up…so I can reach him.”
Parishioner Julie Hermes said she remembers how affectionate Bryant was towards his daughters.
“He was showering them with cupcakes, and he put them in car seats and buckled them in so carefully,” Hermes said.
Parishioner Rosemary Egkan added, “He will be missed — his spirit, his joy, his smile.”
Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church is offering their current Masses for all the helicopter crash victims.