Whenever Reginald Diggs was part of a group picture, the 6-foot-8-inch man couldn't fit in the frame. To his friends, that's an image that...

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Whenever Reginald Diggs was part of a group picture, the 6-foot-8-inch man couldn’t fit in the frame.

To his friends, that’s an image that illustrated his life, a man so large he couldn’t be harnessed.

“Reginald was literally and figuratively a giant,” said Peter Masundire, chairman of the African Americans Reach and Teach Health Ministry (AARTH), which was founded by Mr. Diggs and his mother, Mary Diggs- Hobson. “His life was uncontained.”

Mr. Diggs, 42, died March 20 of a heart attack at his mother’s home in Renton.

An ordained minister, Mr. Diggs was preparing to apply to Seattle University for a master’s degree in theology when he died.

Born in New York, Mr. Diggs moved to Seattle to join his mother, who had been transferred here by Xerox.

Mr. Diggs, who suffered from a genetic kidney disease, was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1995, when he was preparing for a kidney transplant.

An associate minister at Faith Deliverance Assembly in SeaTac, Mr. Diggs was open about his HIV and started Sanctuary Ministries, to help those who were disenfranchised, who had addictive behavior and for those with AIDS.

“He was a gentle giant,” said the bishop of his church, Lawrence Williams, his father-in-law. “He had a real passion for helping people. He worked with young men who would fall through the cracks and show them options for careers and life choices.”

On his second date with the woman who would become his wife, Mr. Diggs told her he was HIV positive. Joanna Williams-Diggs never looked back.

“He was a man of integrity and character,” she said. “He loved his wife, and his family and his church. He was just Reg. He had no mean spirit and people were drawn to him.”

When told he had HIV, Williams-Diggs said she wanted to know the man and was drawn to his honesty. “I was the only one who was able to tame him,” she said.

Mr. Diggs and his mother founded AARTH in 2002, holding health fairs and AIDS workshops. Its focus was taking health resources to the people at the grass-roots level.

“At the time, the faith community was not talking openly about HIV and AIDS,” said Masundire. “For Reginald to share his story and his life in the way he did that provided a vehicle, a tool, for helping others. He became a champion in the faith community.”

Mr. Diggs also was a manager at Starbucks, modeled and operated a modeling agency, but his passion was helping people, his mother said.

“He was very inspiring, very upbeat,” said Diggs-Hobson. “He could always find a ray of sunshine in any situation and help people see the positive side of life.

“He dealt with life as it was dealt to him and he didn’t try to sugarcoat anything, from his kidney disease and HIV, he dealt with it head on in an honest and open way.”

The day he died, he was staying with his grandmother at his mother’s house, helping her as she recovered from a stroke, and Diggs-Hobson was upset that she’d lost files from her computer. Mr. Diggs told her she needed a hug and they hugged. “I’m so thankful to God we hugged,” she said. “A few hours later he was gone.”

In addition to his wife and mother, Mr. Diggs is survived by his brother, Ronald and wife Annmarie Diggs, children Whitney and Madison, as well as his children, Jacques, Isaiah, Charlisa and Omaria, and his grandmother, Lizzie Diggs, and stepfather Lee Hobson. The family asks that any donations in his memory be sent to an account at Washington Mutual Bank to help his family.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Faith Deliverance Assembly, 2642 S. 138th St., in SeaTac. AARTH will hold a memorial celebration on Saturday, April 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the AARTH office in the Emerald City Bible Fellowship Church building, 7728 Rainier Ave. S.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com