DETROIT -- Detroit News sports columnist Shelby Strother, a winner of nearly 100 journalism awards during the past 20 years, died Sunday of cancer. He was 44.
Strother covered nearly every major sporting event since joining the News in 1985. He worked at Today in Cocoa, Fla., the Denver Post and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times before moving to the News.
In addition to his sports writing, Strother covered the tumbling of the Berlin Wall and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
Strother is survived by his wife, Kim, and two sons, Tommy, 13, and Ken, 9.
A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul School Gymnasium, in Grosse Pointe Farms.
Among Strother's journalism awards were the UPI General Excellence in Writing award, presented for the best overall writing covering all categories -- news, feature, column writing and editorial. He also won the best sports column award.
Last October, he received a special honor in the 14th annual Best-of- Gannett competition when judges singled him out for outstanding individual achievement. He was honored for his reports on the opening of the Berlin Wall, as well as sports and feature writing.
The News recently decided to compile the best of his work into a book.
News Publisher Robert H. Giles said Strother's death 'is a tragedy that has left all of us stunned.'
'He was a reporter of enormous range and the best writer I've worked with. Our readers will miss him as much as we will. In the times I spent talking with him alone, I was always touched by the great sensitivity he showed toward people and the wonderful ideas he had for stories he wanted to do. You can never replace a man like this.'
The Detroit Pistons called for a moment of silence honoring Strother before Sunday night's basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
'Shelby was a unique person, loved by all facets of the Detroit community,' Pistons Coach Chuch Daly said. 'He was a great writer and an even greater person.'
Among Strother's favorite athletes was Pistons guard Vinnie Johnson, the 'Microwave,' who plays with a free-form passion Strother admired.
'He was a great person, more of a friend of mine than a writer,' Johnson said. 'I could talk to Shelby about a lot of things...I could tell he really liked me. We were friends. Sometimes media people write what people want to hear. You do a feature with Shelby, he writes the story the way you tell it.'
His wife said friends were what Strother enjoyed most.
'He always had a core of friends that came and went, but it was always close,' she said.