Tyler Jackson Head always dreamed owning a farm with cattle. His mom, Gina Head Hieber, says that when he was a little boy, he would play for hours with farm toys. So it was no surprise to the family that he decided to major in Agri-business at Austin Peay University. At just 20 years of age, he had already begun working towards his own farm: saving money, buying equipment, and had even purchased 5 cows and a bull. In fact, he and his mom and his step-father, Stephen, had even started looking for land with the idea of owning and operating a farm together after he graduated. But none of that was to be for Tyler.
On his way to class at 7:30 in the morning on February 3, 2012, another car crossed 3 lanes of traffic to hit him head-on. Tyler died from his injuries. The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide. His mother said, “I had no idea when Tyler left at around 6:30…that, that morning would be the last time that I would tell him I love you, the last time that I would tell him goodbye, be careful.”
After his death, his mom and step-dad used Tyler’s insurance money to put a downpayment on the 200 year old 52-acre farm next door to where Tyler had been raised and buy it in his honor. Tyler used to tell them, “One of these days, I’m going to buy that farm.” Now the entire family – his parents, his step-dad, his siblings – help work the farm as a way of remembering Tyler and keeping him close. “Everyone…understands that it’s a way to heal, to get beyond the grief of losing him,” said his father, Chuck Head, “It was so hard to look at the cows at first, right after he died, but gradually it became a way to stay connected to him.”
His mother, Gina, has tried to stay active in keeping Tyler’s memory alive in other ways, as well. She has helped organize a holiday memorial service, Wings of Love, in Robertson county. She organizes the Annual Tyler Jackson Head Memorial 5k Fun/Run Walk event to raise funds for medical research and award scholarships to agribusiness students. And she recently lobbied at Capitol Hill for Tennessee to implement a Memorial Sign program on state roadways in hopes of bringing awareness to 100% preventable crimes like impaired driving. Gina told legislators, “My son is gone! But if these memorial signs can help save one life…then it will be worth the effort.”
Tyler’s senseless loss has been felt by his family and all those who knew him. William McMahan, who worked with Tyler for four years on his own farm, said, “Farming was in his blood. He was born into a generation where his parents weren’t farmers, so he really had to learn on his own and find his own way.” Tyler also worked for Houston Dorris who added, “Tyler was so smart…He didn’t try to go out and buy 1,000 acres. He would buy a little at a time. It’s just really neat to imagine where he would have been in 10 years. He had a good business plan. It was hard to let him go, but the legacy of Tyler is still there…”
Step-dad, Stephen Hieber, summed it up, “He was one in a million.”