Book honors the legacy of Gloria Strauss, who died of cancer at age 11

Author and Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer, left, and Federal Way father Doug Strauss talk before an audience Nov. 6 about Brewer
Author and Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer, left, and Federal Way father Doug Strauss talk before an audience Nov. 6 about Brewer's book and Gloria.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

A little more than two years has passed since 11-year-old Gloria Strauss succumbed to cancer, but her legacy lives on in "Gloria's Miracle."

Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer spoke intimately about his first book Nov. 6 at Federal Way's Barnes and Noble book store. Brewer's book was inspired by his award-winning newspaper series that documented the ups and downs faced by Federal Way's Strauss family during Gloria's last months.

Writing a book about Gloria was "a chance to heal, a chance to make sense of everything we experienced," Brewer said.

Like Brewer's series, "Gloria's Miracle" is becoming a success. Brewer estimates 3,000 of the 10,000 copies printed have sold. The book was released in the Northwest in September.

Brewer and Gloria's dad, Doug Strauss, told the bookstore crowd how a sports story became so much more. Brewer and Strauss, Kennedy High School's boys basketball head coach at the time, first met after Brewer won a coin toss to cover the Kennedy team. He and Strauss first talked about the team's 15-game winning streak, but the conversations naturally turned to the Strauss family's fight against Gloria's cancer — neuroblastoma.

"At that time, we were desperate," Strauss said. "We'd been battling (the cancer) for four years."

Brewer, who was raised in a Baptist church but ventured away from God in college, immediately recognized Strauss' story was not about basketball.

"I realized it had to be about the cancer and their faith," he said.

Brewer convinced his editors the Strauss' story warranted a series, not merely one article. He accompanied the family on hospital visits and spent a significant amount of time with them at home. Readers embraced Gloria's story. Meanwhile, Brewer became a family friend and was with Gloria and her family when she passed away.

"I'm just an example of many people who she was able to affect deeply," Brewer said.

More than 2,000 people attended Gloria's memorial. Some knew her personally. Some knew her through Brewer's depiction of a girl who adamantly believed God would make her a miracle. A girl full of smiles, goodwill, faith and an intense desire to be a star.

Even in death, Gloria and the Strauss family continue to be an inspiration. "Gloria's Miracle" expands on Brewer's experiences with the Strauss family during their time of hardship. It dives into Brewer's approach to the topic of life and death, and how he personally found his way back to God through the series. It gives readers an inside look at how a reporter thinks, Brewer said. It's raw and real.

"Everything about this is personal," Brewer said. "I wanted the book to be honest. I wanted it to, at times, be gut wrenching."

Even in death, Gloria is a miracle, Brewer said. To the Strauss family, Brewer was their first miracle, followed by Gloria's graceful lessons.

"We lost Gloria, but the fight goes on," Brewer said. "There's so many beautiful children that have this cancer."

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