NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Nacogdoches farming community is reeling with emotion after the tragic passing of one of their own.
George Henry Millard Jr., 82, died on Wednesday as a result of a one-vehicle accident that occurred on State Highway 21 West near Douglass.
According to a press release from the Texas Department of Public Safety, DPS troopers were dispatched out to a one-vehicle rollover accident about 14 miles west of Nacogdoches at approximately 1:29 p.m. Wednesday. When troopers arrived on the scene, they identified the truck as a 2008 Chevrolet pickup.
The crash was determined to be a factor of the vehicle reportedly leaving the roadway and striking a culvert, the press release said. Millard Jr. was not wearing his seat belt because of restrictions from the implantation of his pacemaker, his family said. He was a quadruple bypass survivor, they said.
Millard Jr's son, George Millard III, is overwhelmed with grief, he said, and cannot believe his dad is gone.
"It's one minute at a time. I was at work, and a friend of mine called me that works next door to us and told me about it, and then I started making phone calls. I knew when DPS pulled in my work. I knew," Millard III said.
Millard Jr. was considered to be a "pioneer farmer," and he was incredibly active in programs at Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin University, his friends said.
"He loved farming and he was a pioneer in farming. He was one of the first farmers to introduce Plasticulture for growing vegetables on plastic here in East Texas," said friend, Louis Duffield. "He just had a passion for farming and just a great farming pioneer in Nacogdoches County."
Millard Jr. first started his farm back in 1986, his son said. At the time, the farm was a chicken farm, and then it slowly grew to incorporate some of Millard Jr's prize crops.
"We've done farming and farming and farming. Started - his biggest crop is now strawberries, onions and turnip greens. And I'm going to keep that going," Millard III said.
Millard Jr. was also very active in the Nacogdoches farmer's market, and although it was considered to be his hobby, Millard Jr's family said it was his pride and joy.
"He just loved interacting with people and just had a kind heart for anybody," said daughter-in-law, Theresa Millard. "There's just so many people who love the strawberries through him ,and I'm hoping that George and I can keep up the farmers market and just continue his support of that."
Millard Jr's friends of more than 25 years could barely hold back tears as they spoke about the type of man he was.
"He always was upbeat, always had a smile and always had some kind of story that would make you laugh, so he was always a very, very cheerful person," Duffield said.
Despite Millard Jr's passing, his family said they plan on continuing his legacy on the farm.
"It's just ... I'm just going to go day-by-day and keep his farm going," Millard III said.
Millard Jr. had just recently worked with Texas A&M University on their strawberry program. Funeral arrangements have not been scheduled, but family said they are planning a memorial for him on Saturday at the farmer's market.