GULFPORT, MS - On Saturday afternoon Zacharias Hercules McClendon was laid to rest. Hundreds came out to honor the 25-year-old Ole Miss graduate student and former Gulfport High School student at Pass Road Baptist Church in Gulfport. We spoke to friends and family members who say McClendon was not only a super star in academics, he was also an undeniably caring and respectful person.
Rather than try to make sense of the murder of McClendon, loved ones say they'd like to remember the ways in which he made their lives better before his life was cut short.
"Zach was the type of person, if you saw someone on the street with a broke down vehicle, he'll put you in his vehicle. Tow your vehicle. You know what I'm saying? To help you out, that's the type of person Zach was," said Zach's friend Annie Henderson.
One by one family, friends, former teachers and classmates paid their respects to the aspiring medical school student who made many of them strive to be better both personally and professionally. Many of the people who knew him say they bonded because of a class they had together.
"He's been urging me to go to medical school. 'I will fix it up and we're gonna get there.' And I was like, 'Ok ok.' He was like, 'Give me your resume. I'm gonna give it back to you by Sunday.' Well I never did get that email, but I'll never forget how dedicated he was to trying to get me back in medical school and keeping me focused," said Zach's friend Kristen Barnes.
Prior to his death Zach was working on his second masters degree at Ole Miss. Family members say he inspired them with his relentless drive to learn. But even while busy with school work he never missed an opportunity to make someone feel special or help them in any way that he could.
"He just wanted to learn, learn, learn. And we wasn't for a few years, he was away so I didn't have too much dealership with him, but anytime he's around he's just going to hug you and pat on you. He's just marvelous to everybody," said Zach's aunt Naomi King.
The three suspects, who are accused of robbing and murdering McClendon at his duplex in Lafayette County are still behind bars after their bond was denied Thursday. They are charged with capital murder.
If you are interested in helping the family pay for Saturday's funeral, you can make a donation to the Zach McClendon account at Hancock Bank.