As many remember Thad Reynolds, they recall a man who embodied the love of family and an enduring strength of faith.
“When I think of Thad, the word that first comes to mind is ‘reconciliation,’” Thad’s close friend Bill Fortenberry said. “It was one of his favorites, because it was the basis for everything he believed.”
As a Christian, he believed that every person has a need to be reconciled with God, through Jesus. As a husband and counselor in the church, he believed God’s perfect will was for men to be reconciled with their wives.
“Thad believed in friendship and encouragement,” Fortenberry said, remembering a time when, for no other reason than to reassure his friend, Thad reminded Fortenberry that he believed in him.
“From that day I have felt a responsibility to be the man of God that Thad saw, and I know that, despite my failings, Thad would only encourage me to keep trying,” Fortenberry said.
Read a 1997 profile of Thad and Michelle Reynolds written by Fortenberry (PDF)
The penchant to bring out the best in others rubbed off and the memory of a hard worker who built his family home next door to his mother’s house still lives on.
“He went to work early and spent late nights there, sawing, nailing, wiring, drilling, doing everything he could to build not a house, but a home for his family,” Fortenberry said.
“I remember it as the home that Hollywood (Baptist Church) built, because his church family saw the passion he put into completing that house, and, facing a deadline, jumped in to help.”
It became a rallying point for the men of the church — a labor of friendship and a labor of love.
“Night after night men in our church, Thad’s friends, came over to hang doors, paint, install molding and do whatever we could to help him meet his deadline,” he said.
It was his infectious personality and ability to enjoy life that drew others to him.
“When I remember Thad, I remember his big, goofy smile as he played one of those charade-like party games in which you have to get your point across to your team,” Fortenberry said.
“And I remember him stepping gently away from the hilarity to hug one of his daughters and change his baby girl’s diaper,” Fortenberry said.
Many of his friends can recall the last time they saw Thad before he was brutally removed from their circle and taken from this world.
“I remember the last time I saw him, his arm gently and warmly around his oldest daughter’s shoulders as they walked away from the crowd,” Fortenberry said.
David Carter said he can still remember staying up late with Thad and speaking about their beliefs and their faith.
The two, with some others, used to go to Deano’s Pizza on Dean Street and enjoy each other’s company every Wednesday. Carter said Thad’s presence had a special quality that seemed to put others at ease.
“Little did either of us know that less than a year later, he would be gone,” Carter said. “I remember Thad John Glenn Reynolds and I will never forget.”
He felt the word of God nourished a person’s soul and wished to pass that same feeling on to others.
“I remember thinking I wish I had the spiritual passion that he had,” Fortenberry said. “Thad truly believed that one person can make a difference, and he did, but not just to two men. He touched hundreds, if not thousands.”
He shared his passion for God with all those who were near him, and he had a deep love for his family.
“Perhaps the biggest pain in my heart is that his daughters have heard and will continue to hear what an honorable man their dad was, but will never have the chance to know that personally for themselves — that is a tragedy,” Hollywood Baptist Church Pastor David Harper said.
Thad was an encourager, he said. He used the promises in the Bible to encourage others.
He described Thad as a remarkable man and one of the finest Christians he’d ever known — a man who lived out day to day what he believed.
On Wednesday, Michelle Reynolds and Scott Harper were sentenced to prison in connection with Thad’s 2004 murder. They received 20 years and life without parole respectively.
And while some feel that justice was served, there are others who believe Thad Reynolds himself would have found it in his heart to forgive.
“Thad was a man of forgiveness,” Pastor Harper said. “I believe he would have extended the hand of forgiveness to those responsible for his death.”
Of the tributes to Thad Reynolds from his funeral, many spoke of his willingness to help others and ability to inspire: “If you were ever in a room with Thad, you could just feel the love of Jesus Christ. It just radiated from him. That is what made his testimony so special. When Thad prayed, it was like God was standing there among you. His life and walk with God will always be such an encouragement for me and my family.”
“Thad was always a major part of my life. He was my brother with a different last name, and Kittie, my other mom, with a different address. Thad was a great friend, wonderful person, and from all I have seen and heard since high school and a great husband, father and man.”
“Thad was the most wonderful, sweetest guy I have ever met. I remember when I lost my stepsister in 1991 and he was really there for me, and helped me through it. He was a great inspiration to each and everyone.”
“I will always remember him being such an encourager to me when I was called to ministry.”
“Thad truly had an angelic spirit. Thad was a child of God and now he has gone from labor to reward and you now have a Guardian Angel up in Heaven watching over you.”
“Tribute by a mommy:
Olivia, Lydia, Emma and Jenna — how much your father loved you. Please always know how very special you were to him and that he will be with you always.
May you always feel his love in your lives and remember him and his dreams for you. You are four beautiful girls, may you find the happiness you so deserve.”
“He is hands down and without competition the greatest, most Godly man I have ever met. I am a better man for ever having been blessed with him as a friend.
I never saw a man so in love with his family. He was the best man I ever had the pleasure to share a meal with. (The Reynolds family is) in my heart and prayers.
To Thad ... dance little brother dance!!! I’ll see you after I cross the great divide. I want a seat next to you at the supper...I still have my invitation.”
“We ask ourselves how anything good can come from this, and I think the answer is that there are so many people out there, just like myself, that knew Thad, and will think about him daily for years and years to come — and in those memories, there will be a reminder to strive to be a better person — to make Thad proud.
Thad had the most remarkable gift of encouragement. His heart’s desire was to allow the Holy Spirit, through him, to edify others and bring glory to God. His smile was matchless and made you want to smile too.
He was a spark that ignited fire in others causing them to desire a real walk with God.” Letter from Thad Reynolds’ family We would like to personally thank District Attorney Leigh Patterson, Beth Dabbs and everyone else involved in the Reynolds-Harper cases. They kept us informed of everything that was happening on the cases. We were always kept up to date on any new developments and were given plenty of time to prepare our family for things that were going to be running in the newspapers and aired on the radio and TV.
They were available at any time that we had questions, no matter what time of the day or night. They were considerate of our feelings and helped in every way to protect our privacy. They did the best they could with the information and evidence they had. They discussed everything with our family and asked our opinion before making any final decisions. This has been a long, tough five years and we are glad this part has come to a close.
We would also like to thank the many people, too many to name, that have helped all of us along the way. We knew Thad had touched a lot of lives, but it became very evident after his death just how many. The Coosa community has done so much for the girls and our family. Frito-Lay, Thad’s employer, has helped out so much. They had golf tournaments in Thad’s honor for several years, with the money raised going toward the girls’ education.
All of our friends and family have been there anytime that we have needed anything. It might just be a ride home from school, spending the night with friends, or a ride to basketball practice. But you just don’t realize just how much that helps when you are running in four different directions. We can only imagine the many prayers that go out for our family everyday and are thankful for every last one.
That is what helped us get through these last five years. It is also what will help get us through many more.
We are a strong, close family and we will be okay. The girls are thriving in every way possible. They have many friends and are very active in sports, school events and church activities. Just keep us in your prayers as we raise these beautiful girls to remember what a wonderful person their dad was.
If you knew him, you know that we lost a wonderful son, a brother, a dad, an uncle and a friend on July 5, 2004. But we all know that he is in Heaven smiling down on us.
Thank you for everything. We can never say enough, Kittie Walker, Beverly Owens, Tye Walker and all of Thad’s extended family