Brooks Gremmels | KERA News

Brooks Gremmels

Anne Bothwell / KERA News

A man who rebuilt a tiny East Texas town died Sunday.

Brooks Gremmels transformed Ben Wheeler, turning the Van Zandt County town into a thriving arts mecca. He and his wife, Rese, created art galleries and shops, as well as two restaurants that feature live music, and a library that gives away free books to kids.

He had pancreatic cancer, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported. He was 70.

Ben Wheeler Fall Feral Hog Festival

(Update, Jan. 27: Brooks Gremmels died over the weekend.)

A few years ago, Brooks Gremmels escaped Dallas and retired to a tiny East Texas town called Ben Wheeler.

The place was falling down. Buildings were vacant. Roofs were gone. Doors were missing. Weeds grew in the sidewalks.

People didn’t have much hope for the Van Zandt County town. But Gremmels did.

“Maybe I could spend a little money and clean up the town," he thought.

So, parcel by parcel, the multimillionaire cleaned up Ben Wheeler.