Jerome Stewart, who perished with his teammates in the crash of a Polish airliner near Warsaw yesterday, had been obsessed with making the U.S. Olympic boxing team ever since that day years when he first stepped into the ring at the Uplift House at 16th and Q Streets NW.
Now, his brother Anthony said yesterday, Jerome's twin brother "Tyrone "will have to fight for both of them."
As friends and relatives gathered to console young Stewart's mother Bessie and the rest of the family at the Morton Street home yesterday, Anthony Stewart recalled how Jerome, a bantam-wieght, and Tyrone, a flyweight, had hoped to surprise their mother by making the 1980 Olympic team, as the Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael, had done in 1976.
When Jerome, 21, had trouble finding a job after he graduated from Western High School four years ago, his mother recalled, he decided to join the Navy, where he could continue his boxing. Twin brother Tyrone now boxes for the Army at Fort Bragg.
Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Delaplane, Jerome's commanding officer at the Naval Air Base in Norfolk where he was a personnel officer for the Harbor Clearance Unit, said the unit was very distressed to learn of the popular seaman's death.
"The kid was America if you were going to personify America," Delaplane said. "You have to say, 'Why the hell him?'"
Dick Pettigrew, who coaches the Navy boxing team and who would be one of the U.s. oLympic coaches this summer, called Jerome, "a perfect gentleman . . . His chances were better than most to make the (Olympic) team. He was a smart boxer, a busy little fighter."
The prospects of there being any U.S. Olympic team in Moscow this summer are slight, but the air disaster yesterday that took the lives of 87 persons, including 22 members of a U.S. boxing team, sent the ring world reeling.
"The personal loss to relatives and friends is just phenomenal," said Don Fraser, a fight promoter at the Los Angeles Forum. "And it was a great loss to the boxing world. They weren't America's top team, but they were all Olympic potentials."
Muhammad Ali, who launched his own spectacular career with an Olympic title, remarked in Miami: "I am sure amateur boxing will go on. We have deaths in all parts of life. We just have to keep going."
The 14 boxers on the 22-member U.s. squad that also included trainers, coaches and medical personnel were selected for the two-city Polish tour as part of an international developmental program sponsored by the Amateur Atheletic Union.
Lemuel Steeples of St. Louis, the national AAU champion last year and a gold medalist in the light welter-weight class at the Pan American Games last summer, was the top U.S. fighter on board the flight.
Another leading amateur, heavy-weight Jimmy Clark of Coatesville, Pa., had been scheduled to make the trip but missed a plane connection from Philadelphia to New York.
Heavyweight Marvin Frazier, son of former world champion Joe Frazier turned down an invitation for the trip. "My father doesn't like to fly," Frazier said, "and he doesn't like me to fly. So he said no, neither of us would go."
Like Frazier, several of the nation's top amateurs decided to forego the trip, some to compete in Golden Gloves championships taking place across the country this weekend.
The winners of the Golden Gloves championships qualify for the Olympic trials. Featherweight Gary Clayton of Philadelphia opted to go on the Poland tour since he would have been back for a Golden Gloves qualifying tournament next week.
Stan Gallup, executive secretary of the Golden Gloves Association of America, said, "Now, when he gets back, we're going to have some very sad graveside services.'
In Illinois, Robert Surkein, the AAU's boxing chairman, said he was stunned by the news. "It's just a shock to me and I don't know how we're going to come out of it. It's the worst shock I've had in 40 years. I've got personal friends on board -- I've got Tom Johnson (the team's coach) on board."
"Sarge" Johnson, as he was known, coached the 1976 U.S. Olympic team that won five gold medals and produced three world champions -- welterweight Sugar Ray Leonard and heavyweights John Tate and Leon Spinks.
"It's just so hard to believe," Leonard said. "We were very close. Sarge was one of the kindest, fairest men I've ever known. He was just beginning to be recognized nationally and internationally for his coaching ability and for his personal qualities.
"Sarge was the guy who pulled our Olympic team together for Montreal. He meant as much to every boxer outside the ring. And now this . . . '
Pat Nappi, the AAU's head boxing coach who had worked with all of the late fighters, said, "I saw them last night at the (Kennedy) airport. They were gay, happy, all looking forward to it. It's a great loss. They were all wonderful people."