Tyler Hall always smiled.
Usually sporting a Hawaiian shirt in the colors of what would have been his alma mater, the 21-year-old UF forest resources and conservation junior never went a day without telling his parents, Kristen and Dave Hall, that he loved them, they said. He always knew the right thing to say to cheer someone up.
Tyler died June 20 in a tragic accident, his parents said. They declined to comment further. He was scheduled to graduate in Spring 2022.
Tyler transferred to UF in the Spring after attending Santa Fe College. Going to UF was his dream, his mom Kristen Hall said.
He balanced many responsibilities, such as living on his own, dealing with his classes and having a girlfriend, to make it there, she said.
Tyler watched every Gator home football game since he was 4 years old. No matter what time the game started, Tyler insisted that he and his parents arrive on campus at 8 in the morning to tailgate. They always sat together in the stadium in Section D.
And it wasn’t just football. During his semester at UF, he was elated to be in the student section at basketball games, where he always wore a tie-dye Gator shirt. He went to baseball games, gymnastics meets and every other Spring sport.
“The University of Florida just isn’t a place where you get a degree,” his mom said. “It’s a place where you become family, and where he felt like he was family.”
He never found anybody that he didn’t love, and he never met a stranger, because everybody was his friend, his mom said. He always made sure he had extra money on hand, in case he saw someone in need, his dad said.
Tyler’s kind and welcoming attitude helped him and his girlfriend, Meagan Clark, instantly click.
The two met on Tinder during the summer of 2018. Clark had Tinder for only three days before she swiped right on Tyler. They had their first date at Italian restaurant in Tampa. Clark said she could never remember the restaurant’s name, but Tyler always could.
Clark will attend her first semester at UF in the Fall as a 20-year-old criminology junior. She transferred from USF to be closer to Tyler, and they were looking forward to attending UF together, she said.
“We fell really hard and fast for each other, like it was pure love,” Clark said. “By month three, we already had baby names picked out. We both genuinely knew how much we loved each other and considered each other soulmates.”
They both shared a love for music, and they planned to follow their favorite band, Grateful Dead, on tour this Summer before it was canceled due to COVID-19. Tyler’s music taste knew no limit, and it ranged from classic rock to modern alternative even old country, she said.
If you met Tyler, you were his friend for life, his mom said.
Tyler met many friends through Twitter, where the Gator Nation was like a family to him, she said. His nickname on Twitter was “Tyce,” a nickname he originally earned in elementary school, his mom said.
One of his friends was Harrison Tenzer, a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. Tenzer and Tyler met on Twitter and bonded over being Gator fans, he said. They tailgated together and sat in the same section at football games.
Tyler and Tenzer’s group of friends on Twitter bonded over sports, fantasy football and Xbox games, like Call of Duty and Fifa. Tenzer said he and his Twitter friends watched Tyler grow from a 13-year-old fan into an actual Florida Gator.
On game days, Tyler always had a smile on his face and a Busch Light in his hand, said Trent Swann, Tyler’s friend. Swann met Tyler at a tailgate a few years ago, but they became fast friends and interacted over Twitter.
Swann graduated from UF in 2015 with a degree in construction management. Although he was older than Tyler, he said Tyler was always welcoming to everyone. If someone was having a bad day, Tyler would go out of his way to reach out and support them.
“Pretty instantly, it felt like I'd known him forever,” Swann said. “I feel like I've known him for longer than I have.”
Tyler was the epitome of what a Gator should be, his mom said. Tyler’s best friend Zach Williams and Zach’s father started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Tyler’s funeral. Tyler’s parents decided to use the money for a scholarship in honor of Tyler instead.
The page has raised more than $30,000 since June 21. The scholarship will benefit students in Polk County, where Tyler was from, who want to follow Tyler’s path in attending Santa Fe and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Tyler’s parents said they are thankful for the Gator Nation for making Tyler’s dream come true. They hope his legacy as a kind and thoughtful person will live on forever.
Meghan McGlone is a UF junior majoring in journalism and English, and this year she’s the City and County Commission reporter. In past years, she’s served as the University Editor, the Student Government reporter, and other positions. Her favorite past time is eating gummy worms and reading a good book.