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After a morning of repairing fences and tending to his Tennessee Walking Horses at his farm in Finley, Ky., Johnnie “Johnny” McElroy did some Christmas shopping at Walmart before heading home to Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.
But McElroy’s family will have a hard time opening their Christmas presents this year because his wife, mother, children, grandchildren and siblings will have to go through the holiday season with only the memories of his contagious smile and loving personality to comfort them.
While driving home in his Chevrolet pickup on KY 88 in Green County Saturday afternoon, McElroy was hit head-on by a vehicle driven by Benny Scott of Hardyville, Ky. McElroy was pronounced dead at the scene. Scott died the following day.
“It was so shocking, none of us ever thought something like this could happen to our daddy,” Elizabeth McElroy said.
Son of Annie Agnes Shively McElory and the late Henry Leo McElory, McElroy was raised in Finley and spent most of his life there. Although “Johnnie” is the name that is printed on his birth certificate, his family said he went by “Johnny” his whole life. He was also a member of Our Lady of the Hills Catholic Church in Finley.
Although McElroy moved to Glasgow three years ago when he married Teresa Ross, Elizabeth said he would come home at least once every week to work on the farm and spend time with his mother, children and grandchildren.
His son, Jonathan McElroy, said it was watching his dad raise everything from cows to pumpkins that instilled in him the value of hard work.
“When you were working with him on the farm it was his way,” Jonathan said. “Whether it was the right way or it took longer, it was his way.”
When Ross and McElroy first married in 2010, she said it took some for her to get used to him spending so much time back home.
She said she found out quickly that for McElroy, the sun rose with his mother Agnes.
“She was just as important as I was,” Ross said.
“The only disagreements me and his family had were over having to share his love and his time,” she said. “If he loved you, he made you feel like you were the most special person in the world.”
Ross met McElroy online, and in the beginning, they were reluctant to pursue the relationship because they lived so far away. But after she talked to him again a few months later, McElroy swore to herthat if he ever got a second chance, he would never let her go. That is when he agreed to move to Glasgow to be with her.
When they married, the couple started saving and making plans to buy a home between Glasgow and Taylor County to make it easier to travel back and forth. Ross said those plans would have become a reality in a year or two.
“He beat the roads down going back and forth,” she said.
But she said he always made it work somehow and still find time for everyone he loved. Ross said McElroy was also close with his niece, Cassandra Goatley, and spent a lot time teaching her to drive a tractor and how to work with the horses. Ross said McElroy is the reason Cassandra, now a student at Berea College, is considering a career as a veterinarian.
Michael Spurling, McElroy’s eldest son, said he often wondered how his father, who worked at Independent Stave Company in Lebanon for more than 30 years and later started Little Pony Express Trucking in Glasgow, ever got any sleep.
Spurling said McElroy liked to spend a lot of time in the woods hunting for raccoons, deer and rabbits. Though his father was serious about hunting, Spurling said he will never forget the fun he had watching him fall into a ditch or get shocked by an electric fence multiple times.
Longtime friend Ronnie Bennigfield of Taylor County said he grew up with McElroy, and that he was well known for his willingness to help anybody.
Steve Brewer of LaRue County worked under McElroy at ISC for several years.
“I am forever grateful to that man — he was tough as nails with us, but he made us in to the people we are,” Brewer said.
He remembered a snowy day several years ago when he was teasing McElroy at work, something he and many of his coworkers often did. McElroy told Brewer that if he didn’t straighten up, he would make good use of a large snow drift in front of the plant.
Thinking he was only kidding, Brewer kept on with his jabs.
“But Johnny was a big man, and before I knew it, he carried me outside and stuck me head first in the snow drift,” Brewer said.
Although he ran a tight shift while at ISC, Brewer said he knew McElroy always had his back, and that he and others who worked there could depend on him for anything.
“It just ain’t every day you get to meet a person like Johnny McElroy was,” Brewer said. “He was one in a million.”
McElroy’s funeral was Wednesday at Our Lady of the Hills Catholic Church. He was buried in the church cemetery.
He leaves behind his wife, mother, three children, a stepdaughter and eight grandchildren.