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Sunday, September 14
 
Price had special bond with Venus, Serena

By Steve Wilstein
The Associated Press

When Venus and Serena Williams were children, precocious tennis players destined to be stars, their oldest sister, Yetunde, was a caring, gentle role model for them.

As recently as Wimbledon this summer, Yetunde was still there for them, helping with personal business matters, cheering them on, the big sister who stayed on the side and never showed any jealousy of their success.

Killed in a shooting Sunday, 31-year-old Yetunde Price, who took her mother's maiden name a few years ago after the parents' divorce, was a registered nurse who also owned a beauty salon. She was divorced and had three children, and had moved to Corona, Calif., 40 miles from where she grew up and died in gang-infested Compton.

Venus, eight years younger than Yetunde, and Serena, a little more than nine years younger, often told about the gunshots they heard as they played tennis on the public courts in Compton. When they turned professional as teenagers, they moved with their parents to Florida, as much for the courts and the coaching there as to escape the violence.

Yet nothing -- not stardom nor distance nor the demands of travel -- weakened the bonds they felt toward their sisters. Yetunde, Isha, a lawyer and singer, and Lyndrea, an actress and singer, could often be seen in press boxes and hotels with Venus and Serena.

At Wimbledon in July, when Venus was injured during her semifinal and considered quitting, her mother and sisters encouraged her to play on.

When the family gathered Sunday to grieve over Yetunde's death, they flew in from various locations to Isha's house in the Los Angeles area. Venus flew from New York, and Serena from Toronto, where she was filming a guest role in a cable TV series. Serena had stayed nearby Isha recently, recovering from her knee surgery at the condo she kept in Los Angeles.

The poise Venus and Serena showed so young could be attributed as much to the influence of those older sisters as to the independence and religious devotion as Jehovah's Witnesses that their parents, Richard and Oracene, encouraged.

That self-assured character could be seen when Venus and Serena were just little girls, going around to local charity events to help raise money. They weren't shy, even then, about taking a microphone and talking to other children about the value of education.

By that time, Yetunde was far ahead in her schooling, becoming a nurse, taking business courses and reinforcing for her younger sisters the values that would shape their lives off the court.




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