When 30-year-old Tyler McClendon died Wednesday afternoon in a tractor accident, the county lost a successful business owner who gave back to his community in numerous ways.
Those who knew him lost a devoted friend and family member who brought love and laughter everywhere he went.
"There aren't a lot of people like Tyler. He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of person. You can't replace people like Tyler," said Cade Grace, who grew up with McClendon and served alongside him in Young Farmers of Walker County.
McClendon served in a variety of leadership roles in the group and was instrumental in raising funds for scholarships and organizing service projects such as Farmers Feeding the Hungry.
For the past two years, McClendon served as president of the Walker County Cattlemen's Association, and he had recently been initiated into the first degree of Masonry York Lodge 211 F&AM in Jasper.
"He wanted to have something going all the time — good, positive things. More people should be like Tyler and be an asset to their community," Grace said.
McClendon, who would have turned 31 on May 11, was planning to marry his fiancé, Kalissa Gann, on Sept. 29.
Friends of McClendon describe him as dependable, hardworking and generous to a fault.
His mother, Jennifer McClendon, said her son had always been a good kid and was a very outgoing young man.
"He never met a stranger. He could talk to anyone," she said. "In fact, he started going to the local Cattlemen's Association meetings with his grandparents, Waylon and Wilene Sherer, when he was real little, and by the time he was 7 or 8 years old, he could tell you exactly how a meeting should be conducted."
McClendon had been around farming and coal mining all his life.
"Tyler was a hard worker. His first job was working with a local veterinarian, J.C. Wise," his father, Billy McClendon said. "He started going to work with me when he was just 12 years old, and he soon became obsessed with operating heavy equipment."
McClendon started his own erosion control business, JTM Silk Fencing, when he was only 18 years old while still in college. He worked for Drummond Coal Company for about three years before going into business with a friend.
McClendon's gregarious nature helped him build a client base for TerraPro, LLC, the general contracting firm that he formed with business partner Jamie Woods in 2014.
"He loved to work. This was his passion," said Michelle Richburg, who recently became a partner at TerraPro.
After years of proving themselves on jobs ranging from railroad construction to excavation, big things were starting to happen for McClendon and TerraPro's nine other employees.
A big contract came through on Wednesday, the day of his passing, and two more contracts have come through in the days since.
Though grieving, McClendon's work family is committed to carrying on because they know he would expect it of them.
After taking a day off on Thursday, the TerraPro crew went back to work on Friday to finish a job that he would have wanted to be completed.
"We're going to keep building the company for him. He wouldn't want us to quit," Richburg said.
McClendon also helped his longtime friend, Mason Boren, open his own successful business, Twisted Barley Brewing Company.
"When I decided to do this, he was probably one of the first people I told," Boren said.
When Boren had questions about financing or fire codes, McClendon put him in touch with the right people.
When Boren needed to borrow tools or heavy equipment to get the building ready to open, McClendon loaned him whatever he needed.
On opening day, the two shared a "we did it" moment.
"I'm proud of him for everything he accomplished, and he was proud of me for what I've done. I'm going to miss him," Boren said.
McClendon's grandmother, Wilene Sherer, said her grandson was an amazing young man.
"Tyler was an amazing child and he had done everything and been everywhere," Sherer said. "He was the light of my life, and I know he will be dearly missed."
Funeral services for McClendon will be held today at 11 a.m. at Kilgore-Green Funeral Home, with burial at Pisgah Baptist Church.