19-year-old swimmer's drowning leaves void

Evan Stringfellow had a habit of hanging up on his mom.

He knew she would call back and give him what he wanted.

But three months before his death, Stringfellow had a change of heart. He apologized for all the times he'd hurt her, told his relatives he loved them and made peace with his grandfathers.

"It's like he was wanting to make his life better and get closer to the family," said his grandmother, Jean Armstrong.

Stringfellow's new path in life was cut short May 26, when he drowned in a North Augusta pool.

He was 19.

The church was packed for his service, which was remarkable for a teenager who once predicted no one would come to his funeral. Family members say he just didn't know how many lives he touched.

"So many young people came and cried over that casket like their hearts were broken," Armstrong said.

Every day, about 10 people drown, according to the national Centers for Disease Control, making it the sixth-leading case of unintentional injury death for people of all ages.

Summer, in particular, is the most dangerous season for drownings. In 2010, between May 31 and Sept. 6, 172 children drowned nationwide, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Priscilla Goodin, Stringfellow's mother, said he was an excellent swimmer who once swam the length of Thurmond Dam with her.

Friends said Stringfellow was jumping and diving into the pool minutes before his death.

Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton said he has not yet received a final report on the death, but there was no initial indication of trauma, such as a bump on the head.

Carlton said fatigue and cramps are other potential causes for a drowning.

Three weeks have passed, and Stringfellow's family is trying to cope with the reality that they will never see his smile again.

"I'm trying to get back into a routine, but some days are easier than others," Armstrong said.

Growing up, Stringfellow fit right in with boys his age: adventurous, energetic, mischievous; Goodin described him as a "happy little boy."

He used his whole face when smiling, squinching his eyes and nose together in a way that was unique.

He loved cherry pie, but would usually trade his crust for his mother's cherries. Give and take was a hallmark of their relationship.

"It always worked out that way," Goodin said.

He loved his two sisters and was fiercely protective of them. After one of them had a miscarriage, Stringfellow consoled her with words that seem profound in the wake of his death: "Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good."

Armstrong knows there is truth in those words, but they ring hollow at the moment.

"Personally I believe in resurrection (after death)," she said. "But right now it feels like the end."

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