Justin Cason took care of his family, blood relation or not.

With a smile and a positive attitude, "Studder," as he was affectionately known because of a slight speech impediment, sought out the good in everyone, especially young African-American boys, said his family.

"His smile was contagious and he was optimistic about everything," said his wife of 10 years, Christina. "Nothing was overwhelming for him. Nothing was too hard."

Cason died Tuesday of natural causes, just two days before his 38th birthday.

Only days before his death, Cason, as always, was seeing to the needs of his family, said his wife.

"With his last dying breath he was making sure things were taken care of for us," she said. "He didn't feel good, but he went and got our baby's stuff off layaway. He was bleeding on the inside -- literally dying -- and he still got up to go get the presents, paid the bills and got the Christmas tree."

The father of three became a Pop Warner football coach when his oldest son Daylon started playing.

Cason quickly became more than just a football coach and was not only well-known, but loved throughout the Long Beach community, she said.

"He mentored all the boys along the way. A lot of them who didn't have fathers, he was their father -- their example of what a father should be," she said. "He would teach them how to be a man; to love their family, to go to work and provide for them."

Cason's involvement on and off the field resulted in lifelong relationships.

"He touched so many wayward boys and he stayed with them from age 7 to high school," Christina Cason said. "He would Facebook them to see how they were doing. He would talk to them and those who fell by the wayside, he would go get them and tell them what they should and shouldn't be doing."

That leadership began at home with his own children, said his wife.

"He was amazing and he made some amazing kids," she said. "My kids have been very helpful through this whole thing. My oldest son -- he raised our son to be a man."

Daylon, 18, credits his father with his maintaining good grades in school and going on to graduate high school at the top of his class.

"My dad always told me the sky was the limit and that I had no ceiling," he said. "C's were unacceptable in my household. An A or a B were the only things acceptable in our house."

Today, as he prepares to leave for the University of Reno on a football scholarship, his thoughts are of his dad.

"I called him my superman. He has always been there for me and my brother and sister," he said. "I will miss that stutter when he'd come in the room to tell me to get up and clean up or just get up -- and him making me laugh in the morning, regardless if I was mad or not."

Cason was also an active member of Antioch Church of Long Beach, where he was involved in the men's ministry and could often be seen pulling a young man aside to share words of wisdom.

"Justin was an authentic and approachable man," said longtime friend Cleon Joseph. "What I admired about him was he never presented himself as most holy, yet you knew he loved the Lord through the strength of his manhood."

"He was what you call a gentle warrior who had one of the most tender hearts I've ever seen in my life," said Pastor Wayne Chaney Jr. of Antioch Church. "He was one of the most loyal friends I've ever had. There was never a time I had to look over my shoulder and question his motives or his heart for me."

Time with Cason, though short, was a blessing from God, said his family and friends.

"The love in his heart was amazing," said his wife. "He was a powerful man of God and there's no doubt in my mind that he's with God right now."

Funeral arrangements are pending. For updated information visit his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/freshmanCoachCason


pam.hale@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1476 Follow Pamela Hale-Burns on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PamelaHaleBurns