Friends remember teen's dreams

Jeremy Lee Truitt's dream car was a 1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z.

"He loved cars," said Randy Bowman, owner of Heritage Storage/Motors.

"That was just his dream car."

Recalling Truitt's dream car is one of many memories flowing through the minds of Bowman and his wife Pat on Thursday.

Truitt's boss said he was well-liked and a hard-working employee.

"You couldn't ask for a better kid," said Brian McRee, owner of Brookford Cafe and Catering.

Many mourned, including the Bowmans, who feel like they lost a son.

Truitt, 18, is presumed dead after being lost at sea while on vacation in Myrtle Beach.

Truitt, a senior at Maiden High School, arrived at Myrtle Beach on Monday with three other friends. While enjoying the sun and surf Wednesday, he was apparently taken under water by a rip current. Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes said "it's too early to tell" the cause of Truitt's disappearance without "additional information about how good a swimmer (Truitt) was."

Knipes said the Myrtle Beach Police Department and city lifeguards started searching for Truitt a little after 1 p.m. Wednesday, with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard and Huffman Helicopters, a local company in Myrtle Beach. Knipes said with Thursday storms and dangerous waters, patrol officers were searching the beach without putting boats in the water.

"We are actively looking for the subject," Knipes said.

As of press time Thursday, Truitt was not recovered from the ocean, near 24th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach.

Best Friends
Bowman first met Truitt about three years ago through his son, Allen.

Bowman said Truitt and Allen were best friends.

"He and Allen were very close," Bowman said, adding Allen died Dec. 28 of cancer at age 20. "He missed Allen a lot. He was kind of like our adoptive son. He spent a lot of time with us."

Bowman said Truitt recently started working part-time at Heritage Motors detailing cars, doing various mechanical work and transporting cars to be inspected.

"He talked a lot about Allen and cars," Bowman said. "He was a good kid and inquisitive. He loved to learn about things."

Bowman said Allen and Truitt's favorite past times were cruising around Catawba County or taking golf cart adventures.

"Anybody that knows them will know the golf cart story," Bowman said, adding there are numerous golf cart stories involving Truitt and Allen.

He explained that the pair took golf carts from Bowman's car business into a nearby field. One time, Allen and Truitt rolled a golf cart in the field. Two of the boys, who joined Truitt at the beach, were also part of the "four musketeers," as Bowman liked to call the group of guys.

"They were involved in some of the golf cart antics, as well," Bowman said, laughing.

A Hard Worker
Along with working part-time at Heritage Motors, Truitt was also well-known as a year-long employee at Brookwood Cafe and Catering in Maiden. McRee said he met Truitt when he started working for him to earn class credit.

"He did such an unbelievable job that I hired him on to be a paid employee," McRee said. "He always came in to do a superior job. He never complained."

Other than working hard during his shift, McRee remembers Truitt's grateful attitude.

"The part that gets me," McRee said, tearfully, "is that he'd thank me every week for giving him a job. He'd personally come up to me thank me. I just hope my son turns out as good a kid as Jeremy. That's what I've always said."

McRee said Truitt fulfilled every task to the best of his ability, whether it was washing dishes, making tea or frying chicken.

"Whatever needed to be done, he was the first one to do it," he said.

McRee said Truitt's hard-working talent bled over to his mechanical abilities.

"He really loved working on his truck," McRee said, adding Truitt owned a S-10 blazer that is silver with black stripes. "He worked so hard on it to fix it up. He was so proud of it."

McRee said he wanted Truitt to work for him even after graduating in June from Maiden High School, but he said, Truitt planned to go into the Air Force. Truitt was a member of the Air Force JROTC at the high school.

"I would love to have 10, 15 or 20 of him," McRee said. "If every employee acted like he did, everyone would want to be in business for themselves. It's really a tragedy. You can't ask for a better kid."

A Friendly Face
At Maiden High School, Truitt may not have been enrolled in an automotive class, but that didn't mean you wouldn't find him in the shop.

"To me, he was part of the class, but he really wasn't," explained Nick Bolick, MHS automotive instructor.

Bolick said Truitt had "mechanical knowledge" that he was interested in expanding.

"He had a knack for wanting to figure out how things worked," Bolick said. "He was always up for the challenge. Once he fixed something, he wanted to know how he could improve it."

Bolick had no doubt Truitt was going to be a well-known auto mechanic.

"He's much rather be in the shop area than anywhere else in the school," Bolick said. "He was one of these kids that said this is what I want to do, and I want to know more. That's what it takes if you are really into (auto mechanics)."

Bolick said being a mechanic requires a person's mind and hands work together for a solution.

"Jeremy was really mechanically inclined," he said. "He wanted to know how the engine worked or the brakes worked; how to turn the rotors or drums."

Aside from working on his Blazer, Bolick said Truitt didn't hesitate to get dirty and help a fellow classmate with car troubles in the school parking lot.

"It's going to be sad not to see him pop in (the shop)," Bolick said.

"He was a good-natured guy, and he helped a lot of kids with different things."

Wednesday evening, after word reached Truitt's friends and family, a Facebook page was created in memory of Truitt, called R.I.P. Jeremy Truitt.

The page listed numerous comments and had more than 420 "likes" as of Thursday afternoon.

One of the many comments came from Bowman:
"You are like another son to Pat and Me (Allen's Parents). The time you spend here at work, whether working or just hanging out with me and Daniel playing with cars and bikes! I know how much Allen meant to you, and I hope you know how much you mean to us. If you are not with us, you are with Allen, and there is some comfort in that. We still hope you will return to us! We love you."