VESTAVIA, Ala. (WIAT) — Friends and family are mourning the loss of a man who played an instrumental part of the annual Mountain Scouts Tree Sale. 51-year-old Patrick Vacarella died in a car accident last Sunday.

Mark McColl knew Vacarella for 15 years and worked with him at the Mountain Scouts Tree Sale. McColl says Vacarella volunteered there for 35 years, helping to raise over $3.5-million for the Boy Scouts.

“I really, honestly can’t imagine the sale without Patrick,” says McColl.

Vacarella got his start at the Mountain Scouts Tree Sale after a run in with law, McColl says. Bo Young, a former police officer, noticed Vacarella would speed down the hill by the tree lot and rev his engine. One day, Young says he pulled Vacarella over and had a little talk with him, telling him he could either pay a ticket or come to work at the tree sale, not knowing what the offer would turn into.

“Never in my wildest dreams,” says Young. “All I wanted to do was get him off the street. Get him off the street, I’m okay, I’ll go to the next villain, next problem we got.”

Young says over the years, Vacarella became like a son to him and was an example of the twelve principles of a Boy Scout.

“In our eyes, he was just an implement of what we were trying to do to be a good scout,” says Young.

McColl says many aspects of the tree sale that made it what it is today are because of Vacarella, like the underground wiring for the speaker system and sales trailer and surprising McColl with an ADA ramp to the lot.

“For 35 years, there is nothing he wouldn’t do for this sale,” says McColl. “He was here every year. He quit jobs so that he could make sure that he was here.”

McColl says Vacarella was at the lot in 1991 when he got the news his dad, vice president of Bruno’s supermarkets Sam Vacarella, died in a plane crash in Rome, Georgia.

“The tree lot became his refuge,” says McColl.

McColl says a plaque will be placed at the Mountain Scouts Tree Sale lot in remembrance of Vacarella as they think of other ways to honor his legacy.