Kathy Mellott and Randy Griffith
The son of two prominent Cambria County officials died of natural causes at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Ryan Fleming, 20, a student at the university, died of what is being described as the result of an ongoing heart problem.
He was the son of Cambria County Judge Linda Fleming and Thomas Fleming Jr., superintendent of the Richland School District.
Those close to the family said Ryan went to a basketball game Saturday night, but didn’t feel well and returned to his quarters and went to bed.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that he died at 10:19 a.m. Sunday of what was termed natural circumstances.
In a Facebook post by Judge Fleming, the family thanked all for the strong support they have received.
“My family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and sympathy from our relatives and friends near and far. And the people of town – this wonderful little town – have embraced us with what feels like a great warm hug,” she stated. “Please continue to hold us in your prayers. We know Ryan is with his Savior, but we mourn the earthly loss of our sweet, wonderful son.”
Duquesne head football coach Jerry Schmitt said Ryan was assistant to the director of football operations at the university and his nephew.
“I knew him professionally and personally. My wife is Linda’s sister,” Schmitt said.
Ryan was a 4.0 student and extremely responsible, the coach said.
“He earned his responsibility with our deparment, way more than any other assistant we’ve ever had,” Schmitt said.
In the role, Ryan did just about anything from videotaping on the field to helping the coaches and keeping track of equipment, Schmitt said. Whatever it took to help the team.
Cambria County Judge Patrick Kiniry, who shares a courtroom with Fleming, said he got to know the family well while he and Fleming campaigned as opponents in the judicial race in 2009.
He also got to know Ryan, especially through his mother, in conversations Kiniry has with her during any routine court day.
“She’s a strong person of faith. She just adored her children,” Kiniry said of his colleague and friend. “We enjoy talking about her kids and my children and grandchildren.”
Jerry Davitch, a longtime family friend and Tom Fleming’s predecessor as Richland superintendent, said Ryan was “a blueprint of what you are looking for as a son.”
The Fleming family is drawing on support from the community for strength, Davitch said.
“There are three things that pull you together through these things: Family, friends and faith,” Davitch said. “They have all that.”
He described Ryan as humble, polite and “very, very intelligent.”
School board President Anthony Rizzo said Ryan was a model student and destined for great things.
“The country lost a great guy,” Rizzo said.
“He brightened up the day,” school board member Michael Bodolosky said.
As judge, not only does Fleming handle criminal cases, but she serves as the county’s domestic relations judge, hearing on a near-daily basis issues involving parenting and child custody.
Rescheduling or transferring some of those domestic relations cases during Fleming’s absence was the responsibility of Cambria County Court Administrator William Valko.
Some had already been switched to Kiniry on Monday morning and others handled by Cambria County Senior Judge F. Patrick Leahey.
Valko also was working on finding judges to handle the 19 criminal guilty pleas set on Fleming’s calendar for one day this week.
“We haven’t split those yet,” Valko said.
A judge also was being sought to sit on the panel of three judges that will hear the case brought by the city of Johnstown.
At a hearing Wednesday, officials will seek permission to increase the wage tax, Valko said.
Funeral arrangements for Ryan are being handled by the Harris Funeral Home, where friends will be received from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 2 to 8 p.m. Friday. A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Clement Catholic Church in Upper Yoder Township.
Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.