Phil Trenary’s son reflects on his father’s life and legacy one year after his murder in downtown Memphis

Son of Phil Trenary speaks in remembrance of his father

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday marked one year since Phil Trenary, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, was gunned down walking home from a chamber event in downtown Memphis in an apparent robbery. The killing stunned the community.

For his son, Pearce Trenary, Sept. 27 is the day the phone stopped ringing.

“He was my best friend. I talked to him twice a day. So every day I look for that phone call. And I’m waiting for it. It doesn’t come,” Pearce said. “Even being here. It brings back a lot of memories. It’s kind of unbelievable that that happened.”

The 24-year-old who now lives in Dallas sat down with WMC Action News 5 at Dewitt Spain Airport on the anniversary of his father’s murder.

Phil Trenary murdered one year ago

The airport is the place Pearce says he and his dad became more than father and son. They became buddies.

“We had the same personality. We loved the same things. He lit my fire. I lit his fire. And we always got excited like two little guys hanging out,” Pearce said.

Phil Trenary grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. Pearce said the first time his dad saw a plane was when a small aircraft ran out of gas and made an emergency landing on the farm. From there Phil’s aviation dreams were born, a dream he made sure came true.

“That was when he was like, I want to be around airplanes the rest of my life,” Pearce said.

Phil Trenary got his pilot’s license, launched a flight school and created a regional airline, even teaching his children to fly. He would eventually end up in Memphis as CEO of Pinnacle Airlines. Even at the top, loved ones said he never forgot his hard-working roots, standing shoulder to shoulder with those he lead.

“Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, every single holiday without a beat, he would go out to the airport and load bags. He would strap on his ramp gear, walk out the door and say I love you. We’d have the day done and he’d go out and do his job. And he was just the person that loved everyone around him,” his son said.

Phil Trenary loved Memphis too. And he believed, as the city’s salesman to the world, that Memphis was on the cusp of a big breakthrough. Then his killing rocked the Bluff City to its core.

“I was on the phone with him not 30 to 45 minutes before the incident,” Pearce said.

Pearce recalls he’d planned to come to Memphis that weekend. He was going through a difficult time and figured flying with his dad might help. But it never happened.

Memphis City Council honors late Phil Trenary with Humanitarian Award

“I had something going on in my life and really wanted to hang out with him, and we were planning a trip to come down here. And we were going to fly and go on the boat, anything with an engine we love. Airplanes, cars, we were going to make a boys weekend out of it. And it was that weekend. I had my flights booked and everything,” Pearce said. “It was nice knowing that our last conversation we were planning to do something really cool.”

In the days, weeks and months since his father’s death, Pearce said he and his siblings have relied on each other and the Memphis community for support. And those here have delivered.

He’s stayed away from news reports of his dad’s murder because he says his father was much more than a crime victim.

“I just didn’t want to remember him as that, because of his accomplishments and his background and his history. That was my dad. Memphis was my dad. Aviation was my dad. Not what happened. That wasn’t my dad,” Pearce said.

With massive developments planned downtown from new hotels to Union Row, St. Jude’s expansion and more, Pearce said he knows the best is yet to come for Memphis. And he’s cheering for the city and asking others to do the same, because that’s what his dad would want.

“He’d be saying, make this city the best it can be and make it the city it should and can be,” Pearce said. “And I think the best way people can honor him is working toward that. And I think a lot of people are. And it makes me really happy to see that. I don’t want his mission to vanish. And it’s not. I’m really happy about that.”

Three people were charged in connection to Phil Trenary’s murder.

Twenty-two-year-old McKinney Wright, Jr and 18-year-old Quandarius Richardson were indicted by a Shelby County grand jury in May on charges of first-degree murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery. They are due in court again Oct. 31. A trial date has not yet been set.

The case of a 16-year-old girl arrested in connection with the crime was handled through juvenile court in a closed-door hearing.

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