Remembering Kobe Bryant at the Church Where He Prayed Before Helicopter Crash

Parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach remember Kobe Bryant as a loving father who doted on his four daughters, sometimes with cupcakes

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Most of the world knew Kobe Bryant as a basketball player with a combination of exceptional talent and tenacious desire, a calculating and cold-blooded scoring machine with no fear on the court.

At Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, he was a loving father of four daughters who shared the sweet joy of cupcakes.

Bryant attended Mass regularly at the church, including on Sunday at 7 a.m., about two hours before the Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash about 70 miles to the northwest in Calabasas.

He was showering them with cupcakes, and he put them in car seats and buckled them in so carefully.

Julie Hermes, parishioner

"He will be missed -- his spirit, his joy, his smile," said parishioner Rosemary Egkan.

On Monday morning, church members gathered to pray for families of the helicopter crash victims. Flowers, candles, signs and other items were left outside the church in memory of the Lakers' all-time leading scorer.

Bryant brought five NBA titles to Los Angeles, but members of the church said he also brought smiles to the community and remained humble. Many fans will recall that night in 2006 when he dropped 81 points, or his final game -- a 60-point farewell letter to adoring fans.

But Julie Hermes recalled watching Bryant's gentle way with his daughters outside the church one day.

"He was showering them with cupcakes, and he put them in car seats and buckled them in so carefully," Hermes said.

There was something else that stood out about the 6-foot-6 Bryant at church.

"When I give him communion I have to put my arm and feet up like that so I can reach him," said Heny Russell.

Crash investigators remained at the scene northwest of LA Monday. They're looking over a debris field that covers the area of a football field, attempting to determine why the helicopter crashed during a foggy morning in Southern California.

Recordings of conversations between the pilot and air traffic controllers indicate the pilot had to obtain special clearance to fly Sunday morning through the San Fernando Valley. Visibility in the area was below the regular minimum for flights under visual rules.

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