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Friends recall 'Big Steve'

Volunteers hold USA flags outside Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors during visitation for fallen marine Lance Cpl. Steven Sutton Tuesday. Sutton’s funeral will be held at 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Leesburg with interment to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery on Dawson Road in Albany. Highway 32 from Lover’s Lane Road to Leesburg will be closed to traffic from noon until 3:30 p.m. for the processional.

Volunteers hold USA flags outside Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors during visitation for fallen marine Lance Cpl. Steven Sutton Tuesday. Sutton’s funeral will be held at 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Leesburg with interment to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery on Dawson Road in Albany. Highway 32 from Lover’s Lane Road to Leesburg will be closed to traffic from noon until 3:30 p.m. for the processional.

Funeral route announced

LEESBURG, Ga. — The Lee County Sheriff’s Department announced Tuesday that Highway 32 from Lovers Lane Road to Walnut Avenue in Leesburg will be closed to thru traffic from noon to approximately 3:30 p.m. today due to the funeral service of Marine Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton.

Sutton, 24, who joined the Marines in 2009 and was attached to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division, was killed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan during combat operations over the Memorial Day weekend.

His funeral service is set for 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Leesburg with interment to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery on Dawson Road in Albany.

Sutton’s body is scheduled to leave Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors at noon, with the procession turning left on to Edgewood Drive, then right onto Third Avenue and left on Slappey Drive. The procession will travel U.S. 19 north to Leesburg, turning right, crossing the railroad tracks then onto the church.

At between 2:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m., Sutton’s body will be taken from the church and the procession will travel down Main Street to Walnut Avenue then south on U.S. 19 to Third Avenue, then to Dawson Road and on to Crown Hill.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging people to start lining the roadside from McDonald’s in Leesburg south to Albany and to the gates of Crown Hill.

The American Legion Post 30 is asking the public to spread out along the route. Post 30 representatives will be distributing American flags on eight-foot poles every 150 feet on both sides of the highway and streets.

They will begin distributing the flags at 1:30 p.m. in Leesburg and will retrieve them from immediately behind the procession as it makes its way to the cemetery.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Friends and family will say goodbye to the gentle giant they called "Big Steve" this afternoon as Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton is laid to rest at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Sutton, 24, who joined the Marines in 2009 and was attached to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division, was killed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan during combat operations over the Memorial Day weekend.

His funeral service is set for 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Leesburg with interment to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery on Dawson Road.

A stream of mourners flowed into Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors Tuesday evening, braving a steady rain to pay their last respects to the fallen Marine and his family.

"Yes, I am surprised at the number of people who have turned out," Sutton's father Gene said. "It's awesome and really hard for me to wrap my head around."

The elder Sutton appreciated the outpouring of love shown by the community.

"This is actually helping us (cope with the loss). I really thought it was going to be worse than this," Gene Sutton said. "But to see all his friends and folks that loved him has really helped us. It still really, really hurts, but it helps to be around so many people who loved him."

And there was no shortage of people who loved Steve Sutton on this night.

"We knew each other since the third grade. Steve was fearless and loving. There are no other two words to describe him. He had no fear," said lifelong friend and pallbearer Thomas Nichols. "He was always the first one to make a stand and he always had our back. Of course him being over 6 feet 7 inches helped ... he could be a scary dude when he wanted to."

When asked for one of his fondest memories of his friend, Nichols quickly answered.

"Steve didn't play baseball, but I remember our summer travel team was on the road for a game in Savannah and right before the game started our coach (Chris Edge) pulled a rope out of his pocket," Nichols recalled. "He held it out and asked us 'if you were hanging off the ledge of a cliff and had the end of this rope in your hand, who would you want at the top holding the other end?'

"I immediately thought of Steve, and he wasn't even there. I will miss his company. He always said 'I love you, buddy' when he left. Everybody will miss that."

Former Lee County High School Head Football Coach David Johnson coached Sutton during his entire four-year stint with the Trojans, and he remembered the first time he saw Big Steve.

"When I first met Steve, I thought 'that's a big ol' boy ...' and could tell he had potential as a football player," said Johnson. "He was a fierce competitor in practice and during games. He was a genuinely great human being to be around."

Johnson said Sutton was a completely different person on and off of the football field.

"Off the field he was the gentlest person you'll ever be around. Put him on the field he would line up and physically whip the guy in front of him," said Johnson. "He never refused to help anybody asking for a ride, money for a drink ... he'd give you the shirt off his back. I saw it often. It was an honor to have been his coach and to have known him."

Tripp Boatner was a teammate of Sutton's for all four years in high school. The two were offensive linemen, often playing shoulder to shoulder.

"I"m 6'5" and Big Steve made me look small," said Boatner, who now plays arena league football for the Wyoming Calvary. "He was one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. He was a great person unless you were in front of him on a football field."

Boatner said he remembers many stories about his friend, yet elected to keep those to himself.

"I don't know if there is just one story because there are so many, he said. "I do have some stories to tell but I don't think you could print them in a newspaper. I'll miss just talking and hanging out with him. We didn't see much of each other when we went off to college.

"When we got home we would hang out. I know I'll miss that."

Comments

KimmieBuck74 1 year, 10 months ago

Will the buses and parents be able to get to their children at 3 o'clock when they get out of summer school?

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bigbob 1 year, 10 months ago

Rest in Peace big man, god bless you & your family. Thank you for my familys freedom.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 10 months ago

This was the best show of support for a HERO Albany has ever shown!! I am proud to be a SOUTH GEORGIAN because of this experience. ALBANY AND LEE COUNTY CAME TOGETHER AND SHOWED BIG RESPECT FOR A BIG MAN!!!

RIP BIG STEVE!!

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