Young logger was a true mountaineer
Will Pennington personified everything that makes mountaineers great: devotion to family, hard work, self-sufficiency, intrepidity, community spirit, honesty and Godliness.
In 21 years, the young man accomplished more than most do in an entire lifetime. He started his own business, which gained a sterling reputation. He had the utmost respect of his community and served as a volunteer firefighter. He devoted many hours to community service projects. Above all else, he cherished his family, girlfriend and friends and never did anything to break their trust in him.
Pennington was an exemplary person in every respect and our community suffered a great loss with his untimely death.
Will was born and raised on a hilltop near Bartow, with endless miles of woods and meadows in which to play. His father, James, is a trucker, who hauls logs from forests to mills. His mother, Lucille, comes from a logging family and Will started working for his grandfather's logging company when he was eight years old. His parents and grandfather taught him the value of hard work and a dollar bill.
As a youngster, Will loved the outdoors. He hunted, fished, played ball and enjoyed working with his grandfather in the forest. He also enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked. The youngster loved working with his father in the trucking company garage and James trained him to be an expert mechanic.
Will was a good student at Pocahontas County High School and mastered courses in welding and electrical work. He was a good athlete and had fun playing on the basketball team. While still in school, he saved up money from his logging job to buy a blue pickup truck.
After he got his drivers license, Will started hanging around the B-F-D Fire House, where fire chief Buster Varner made him an unofficial member. He helped with chores around the station until he turned 18, when he became an official firefighter and responded with the squad on emergency calls. He took firefighting seriously and completed a hazardous material course and other special training.
Will believed in God and accepted Jesus at the Hebron Baptist Church. He also attended Boyer Brethren Church and settled with Calvary Gospel in Durbin. He devoted much of his spare time to fixing up the church building.
He graduated from PCHS in 2008 and, like all graduates, faced decisions about his future. His mother urged him to pursue a welding career. Good welders make good money, she told him. Most of all - she didn't want Will to go into logging - an occupation she knew was very dangerous.
But logging was an occupation to which Will was naturally drawn. He could have started trucking with his father or gone to work for his grandfather's company, but he was inspired to start his own company. The young entrepreneur went to the bank and asked for a loan to buy a skidder, a dozer and a truck. The bank told him that, due to his youth and lack of credit history, his father would have to co-sign the note. James never had a second thought about signing for Will and his son never missed a payment.
Back Country Logging started up in 2009 and quickly gained a reputation as a company that got the job done. The company completed projects for High Mountain Timber and Beckwith Lumber and both employers were impressed with the results. During a long rainy spell, Pennington's company was the only outfit providing logs to the Beckwith mill because other loggers wouldn't work in the rain.
Back Country got its first big job when it won a bid - over four big, established logging companies - for a clearing project along Route 33 near Bowden. The little company - just Will and his dozer operator, Mike White - proved they could compete with the big boys. The employer, Mountaineer Contracting, was very pleased with their work.
Will's ambition helped him start a successful business, but the young man's dreams never took him away from his family. He started building a house across the glen from his parents' house, where he planned to settle down with his girlfriend, Mercedes. From a young age, he had helped his father with mechanical work and he wanted to stay home, where he felt needed and was happiest.
Despite his new responsibilities as a business owner, Will continued to fulfill his commitment to his community. He continued serving as a firefighter, helped out with the kids' fishing derby at Buffalo Lake, made repairs to the ballfield at Widney Park and worked on a variety of church projects.
Will suffered his greatest loss when his uncle and close friend, John Mallow, died of pneumonia in 2009. Incredibly strong for his youth, he helped his family endure the sad time.
In June, the young logger was working on a mountainside in the northern end. He had just cut a large tree and was sawing away the top limbs when the skidder jarred the unbalanced tree loose. The tree swung with great force, striking Will in the head and killing him.
Their strong faith has helped Will's family endure the grief of losing a beloved son, partner and friend. They know he is with the Lord.
The community, shocked and saddened by Will's death, responded with an outpouring of love and sympathy for the family. Nearly 300 of Will's friends, family and co-workers attended a memorial softball tournament at Widney Park, where Will worked so hard to give youngsters a decent ballfield. The tournament raised $2,000 for the family, but more importantly, honored the man who accomplished so much in such a short time.