Craig D. McPherson Jr., an assistant customer service manager at Hannaford Supermarket in Windham who was known for his energy, loyalty and passion for life, died Sunday from injuries suffered in a car accident. He was 26.

Mr. McPherson was driving to work on Route 302 near Cooper Ridge Road on Sunday morning when his car was struck head-on by a 2014 Subaru Forester. He died at a Portland hospital.

Mr. McPherson’s family and friends cried and laughed Tuesday as they told stories of a man who touched many lives in his short life. His mother, Kelley Gallant, spoke of his generosity, loyalty and love of life. She recalled the day he spent taking care of his grandmother, who recently had surgery. She also told how her son inspired and encouraged a co-worker to apply to colleges. And she laughed as she told how he would give away cigarettes to Portland’s homeless.

“He could make them happy for a minute,” she said. “That was Craig. He was always thinking about other people. I never realized how much until hearing all these stories and seeing the outpouring of support from his friends. It’s amazing.”

Mr. McPherson had a strong network of friends through his work at Hannaford. He joined the supermarket chain at age 16 and worked at its locations on Forest Avenue in Portland near Baxter Boulevard and in Gray. He had worked at the Hannaford in Windham for the past month.

His manager, Nichole Brunette, said he was scheduled to work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift on the day of the accident. In his job, Mr. McPherson helped run the front end of the supermarket, which includes the cashiers and service desk. He also handled customer complaints.

“He was fantastic,” Brunette said. “He could defuse a situation if someone was upset. He was always smiling and kind. If Craig was handling a situation, people knew it would be handled quickly and done right.”

George Erskine, manager of customer service for Hannaford’s Gray store, said Mr. McPherson was smart, motivated and loved by everyone.

“He was a great guy. People loved being able to share their lives with him,” Erskine said. “He was top-notch. He was climbing the ranks at Hannaford. He really busted his butt and gained the friendship, loyalty and respect of everyone he worked with.”

Mr. McPherson was well-known in Portland’s gay community. A couple of years ago, he worked as a bouncer at Styxx in Portland.

Jonathan Flewelling, his partner of five years, sobbed Tuesday as he told how Mr. McPherson was loyal to his friends and loved by many.

“We were always honest with each other,” Flewelling said. “Craig wasn’t afraid to tell you how it was. … We balanced each other so well. He was absolutely my better half.”

Police investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the crash. Gallant met with police Tuesday afternoon to discuss the accident. She said that she was told that the vehicle ahead of him had swerved out of the way of the oncoming Subaru Forester, which hit her son’s vehicle head-on.

Gallant said she is angry and wants answers. Until then, she will set her feelings aside to celebrate her son’s life.

“We’re gong to have lots of purple balloons and celebrate Craig,” she said. “There’s not one day in that boy’s life that he didn’t make me proud. Not one day.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com