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Tribute paid to Kansas high school football photographer who died after accidental hit on sidelines

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas high school football team paid tribute to their longtime photographer following her death Friday, four days after an accidental hit on the sidelines of a junior varsity game she was photographing.

Linda Gregory died a few hours before Friday's game, her husband Mel Gregory announced on Facebook.

The 69-year-old woman had fallen backward and struck her head on concrete while taking pictures Sept. 4 at the junior varsity matchup between Wichita Northwest High School and rival Bishop Carroll High. Critically injured, she had been on life support all week waiting to donate her organs ever since the inadvertent hit during a blocking play by two players.

Mel Gregory, who owned a local photography business with his wife and was her photography partner, joined several other family members at Northwest's game against Heights High School on Friday just as the couple had done for years, the Wichita Eagle reported. All the players wore “LG” stickers on their helmets that will be there all season, and there was a moment of silence in her honor before kickoff.

“I was back on the sidelines tonight to watch Linda Gregory being honored with many tributes. It was hard to do the interviews and my voice broke way too many times but I hope I made my beloved Linda Gregory proud of my attempt to be as good as she was,” Mel Gregory wrote on Facebook after Friday's game.

The Gregorys started taking pictures of Northwest High sporting events in 2014 and have been a regular presence around the school's teams.

“Linda was an amazing person who breathed life into our students here at Northwest,” coach Steve Martin said after she was critically injured. “She would go out of her way to make each kid feel important in her own unique way. Her passion for kids was amazing, but it went deeper than taking pictures for Linda and Mel. They were a part of our football team and always will be. They are family!"

Longtime friend Joanna Chadwick said Linda Gregory made a lasting impression on the players she took pictures of. Chadwick became close to her when her husband coached basketball at Northwest.

“Linda is the third grandmother to my sons and that is something I’ll never, ever be able to repay her for,” Chadwick said. “But what is so amazing about Linda is that as much as she loved my family and as much as we loved her, it was that same way with so many other people.”

Former Northwest High star Breece Hall, who is now a New York Jets running back in the NFL, asked for prayers Tuesday after he heard about the injury.

“These are the most genuine, polite, kind, giving, whole hearted people. Prayers out to you and your wonderful wife, Mel Gregory,” Hall posted on Facebook.