IDAHO FALLS — McNeil Walker had a big smile, kind heart and was a friend to everyone he met, family members say.
The 21-year-old Idaho Falls native was killed in a crash Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 15 near Roberts. McNeil was driving a tractor when police say 23-year-old William Gago of Florida slammed into the tractor. McNeil died on the scene.
As his family members make funeral preparations, they’re remembering the young man who touched so many lives.
“He was probably the most loving and kind person I’ve ever met in my life,” Chase Walker told EastIdahoNews.com. Chase was McNeil’s cousin but considered him more like a brother and best friend.
“Everything he did was about making people feel good and happy,” Chase says. “I go to bed and I wake up hoping it was all a dream and that he’s still here with us.”
One of McNeil’s passions was the Red Barn pumpkin patch he and Chase started in Idaho Falls 10 years ago.
Both needed money to pay for their LDS missions and a college education. Over the years, their small business venture turned into a fairly large operation.
“We did everything with the pumpkins – planted, weeded, fertilized, watered – and every year, we just added a little bit more,” Chase says. “Last year was our biggest year, and we ended up growing 17 acres and close to 35,000 pumpkins.”
The day he died, McNeil was bringing a tractor from Hamer to the pumpkin patch in Idaho Falls. Chase was waiting to meet him when he received the heartbreaking call saying his best friend had died.
“It just was unreal because I had talked to him probably an hour before,” Chase says. “It’s going to be pretty difficult not having McNeil at the pumpkin patch. I don’t even know if I can even explain it. We have always lived for the fall, and it’s going to be tough. But I know McNeil would be upset if we didn’t work hard and make sure the pumpkin patch wasn’t flawless.”
McNeil was the youngest of five children and was attending Brigham Young University-Idaho. He returned from serving an LDS mission in Mexico City last August.
Chase says he loved his family.
“We actually lost our grandma two weeks ago,” Chase says. “I know God has his way of timing, and I think she was going to prepare for McNeil so she could be there for McNeil when he passed on.”
The Walker family thanks everyone for their prayers and, in the midst of their grief, they’re asking others to show compassion toward the man driving the semi-truck.
“Nobody understood forgiveness and love like McNeil,” Chase says. “He would want us to not be mad at that family or the driver. He would want all of us to be praying for the truck driver’s family. The kid is 23, and he has to live with that for the rest of his life, and he’s going to have a different pain than the rest of us are having. He’s going to need just as much of God’s help as we do.”
Chase says his cousin lived his life for others and, although he’s gone, McNeil has touched countless lives around the world.
“His whole life was set on making other people feel good about themselves,” Chase says. “He wanted to help people and let them know that they were worth something. He wanted them to know they were amazing people even if they made mistakes and even if they had fallen short.”