By Lindsay Doty
Memorial flowers were piling up outside of Big Tuck’s feed store in Pittsboro on Monday morning as a grieving widow inside tried to make sense of it all.
“I had to keep the store open. I have to do something. If I just sit at home, I cry all night. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat,” said Judy Wyatt Tucker, choking back tears.
On Saturday, her husband and business partner Phil “Big Tuck” Tucker, 56, died suddenly after a tree branch he was cutting down on a nearby property collapsed on him, crushing his body.
“He cut a lot of trees down and chops up the wood and sells it to people to keep warm. He had four more trees to cut down, there were about a hundred on this property, he cut this one down and one of the big branches hit him hard,” Wyatt-Tucker said.
She got the life-changing call while shopping with a close friend. Pittsboro police and leaders of her church helped escort her home.
“He was my everything. My soulmate.”
The couple, who met online, had just celebrated their 19th anniversary but Judy says “every night” was pretty much date night.
“We did everything together. We were inseparable. We would walk a lot and go out to eat. We always said that when we retired, we were going to get a camper and travel.”
Shortly after the accident, the community support started to pour in both online and in person. Big Tuck was known as a lovable guy with an infectious smile who was all about the small town he lived and worked in.
Besides running his store, he worked as a bus driver and served as a crossing guard at Pittsboro elementary school.
“This was a truly devastating loss to the Pittsboro community. Phil was the first to step up if anything needed to be done,” said Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson.
Tucker was born in Lebanon and grew up in Pittsboro where he worked behind the counter at his family’s restaurant, Tucker’s Corner. The Tri-West graduate and football standout went on to serve in the United States Army. He later returned to his business roots on Main Street where he operated Tucker Salt & Water Express and later opened the existing Big Tuck’s feed and pet supplies store that he owned with his wife.
Following his death, customers and community members flooded the store’s Facebook page with prayers, support and stories of how “Big Tuck” made a big difference in their small community.
“The community has been wonderful. The comments, the flowers. I had a friend come over from my church last night and she has a little boy who said when he grows up, he wants to be just like Big Tuck. Everybody just loved him,” Wyatt-Tucker said.
She said the support and having the store doors open at Big Tuck’s is what’s keeping her from falling apart this week.
“At night, I cry all night. I know he would want me to be strong. So I’m trying to work the store and stay strong,” she said.
“I will miss him. He was my life.”
Family and friends can gather Wed, Dec. 5 from 4-7p.m. in the David A. Hall Mortuary, Pittsboro.