There was a time when Chris Lindley earned fame as a high school basketball star.
There also was a time when he received attention for losing his right foot in a tragic train accident in 1990 that ended his basketball career before he ever got to suit up as a Kansas University player.
But in the 17 years since his playing days were cut short by the accident, Lindley quietly earned friends and respect across the Lawrence community, living, working and volunteering for organizations across town.
Those who knew the 6-foot-9 Lindley, who died Thursday at the age of 34, struggled Friday and Saturday with the news of his unexpected death.
Naomi Criss, Lindley's aunt, said the family has been informed that the cause of his death was complications from an enlarged heart.
"Not only was he in a train wreck and good at basketball, but he was also an amazing person," said Kelly Evans, executive director of Trinity In-Home Care, 2201 W. 25th St.
Lindley worked for the past two years at the home care service in Lawrence, helping clients get matched up with employees for in-home care.
Employees at Trinity said Lindley had the hardest job in the office, yet he did his work with few complaints and was known for keeping an upbeat attitude and often joking with his co-workers.
Mickey Dick, social worker at Trinity, remembered Lindley's last day there, talking about the Valentine's Day gift he received from his girlfriend the night before - a collage of photos of Lindley's family.
"Wednesday was a wonderful day," Dick said. "He was so happy."
Lindley's family, gathered in Kansas City, Mo., also tried to come to terms with the sudden death of "The Gentle Giant" - the name his family called him.
"He had a wonderful heart, a beautiful heart," Criss said. "We are just really going to miss him."
Lindley will also be missed by others from organizations Lindley worked for over the years in Lawrence.
Before he worked at Trinity, Lindley was popular among the young kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrence.
Jana Butcher, program manager for Boys and Girls Club, said children would line up each day to play a few minutes of one-on-one basketball with Lindley.
"They loved playing with him," Butcher said. "He always shot flat-footed jumpers. It was so funny - the kids loved it."
Basketball remained something Lindley loved, despite his competitive playing days coming to an early end.
Friends said he rarely talked about the train accident, but he was always fond of watching and talking about basketball.
"We would always sit around and watch basketball together," said Travis Arellano, one of Lindley's friends. "But he was a big soccer fan, first and foremost. When it was World Cup time, he was up at all hours of the night watching soccer."
During the days, it wasn't an uncommon sight near downtown Lawrence to see Lindley taking his dog, Maggie, for a walk.
"Maggie was his life," Dick said. "He would take that dog everywhere."
He would even take Maggie to Rick's Place, one of his favorite hangouts.
On Saturday, a small pillow where Maggie would rest while Lindley hung out at Rick's Place remained on the ground.
Rick Younger, owner of the bar, had grown close to Lindley over the past 10 years.
"He just was a very, very kind person," Younger said. "He was very private, but would do anything for his friends."
The news of Lindley's death stunned Younger and others at the bar who were used to seeing the Gentle Giant stop in.
"It was a pretty tough night (Thursday) night," Younger said. "There were a lot of glasses raised (for Lindley)."
No funeral has been planned for Lindley, although Criss said it would likely be toward the end of next week.