Man who brought Ben Wheeler back to life passes away - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Man who brought Ben Wheeler back to life passes away

Brooks Gremmels, center (Source: Brooks Gremmels, center (Source:

A man who returned to his native East Texas from Dallas with a mission to restore a town that was falling into ruin has passed away.

Brooks Gremmels died Sunday night after a long, hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer, a family friend announced.

Brooks and his wife Rese returned from Dallas to East Texas where they had enjoyed a number of successful business ventures. They loved the beauty of the East Texas countryside, but it bothered him that the town of Ben Wheeler was virtually a ghost town.

Gremmels told KLTV's Joan Hallmark in an interview in 2008, "I wanted to clean the town up some. It had fallen to rack and ruin. The houses were dilapidated, falling down. There was no business left here."

Gremmels reasoned that since he had the time and resources, he might be able to clean the town up and stop its deterioration.

"It was one of those deals that, once it got started, it took on a life of its own," he said, speaking of the restoration of the small town.

Though many said it couldn't be done, Gremmels solved that problem by buying up the town, and renting the buildings out for ridiculously low prices to attract shopowners and artists. His plan worked.

Downtown Ben Wheeler now looks much like it did in the 1930s, when it was a bustling town of stores, restaurants and even a four-year college.

Gremmels told Joan, "It is a 'build it and they will come' situation."

Gremmels will be missed by many in East Texas, but his legacy will continue on through his loved ones and the city of Ben Wheeler.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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