David Freberg left his York County home the day after his 36th birthday. He left for New York to help with the cleanup effort after Hurricane Sandy.
He'd been there for two weeks when his mother-in-law, Sondra Stout, got a horrifying phone call on Monday.
"They told me it had something to do with the tree business, and it was some kind of freak accident," Stout said. Freberg was cutting into a fallen tree when it snapped back toward him and struck him in the head. He was killed instantly.
"He was my firstborn, and it hurts," said Freberg's mother Eileen Adams. "When you hear news like that, it's hard to wrap your head around it."
Freberg was working on Long Island with his father-in-law and several others. He co-owned a tree service business called Patriot Tree Service, which he'd started up only about a year ago. He'd also worked as a trucker, an electrician and in pest control until starting the tree service.
His mother said his life was about helping others, and when he saw the tremendous damage from Sandy, he had to go.
"Everything David did he was successful at. He was such a hard worker," she said. Adams said her son was also an inspiring giver. She told a story about a time when his clothes kept vanishing. She asked him about it, and found out he'd given his warm winter coat and other clothes to homeless people at truck stops when he was a trucker.
"He wouldn't give them money, but he'd buy them a meal and help them any other way he could," Adams said.
Freberg also had a strong faith in God that has spread too many other members of his family.
He leaves behind a wife, Dawn, of nine years and three young children, ages 7, 2, and 9 months.
"They won't know him," his mother said through tears, "only the 7-year-old will remember."
On Wednesday afternoon, Stout and Adams were taking care of the three children while Dawn Freberg was in New York dealing with the tragedy.
Stout said she's trying to be strong for the family.
"I'm trying to be tough. At least for my babies here. Trying to be tough. I will be here for my daughter through thick and thin," she said.
Dawn's sister, Erica, told Channel 9 that relatives have set up a memorial to help support the family during this time.
If you'd like to donate to the David Freberg memorial fund, it's set up at South Carolina bank and Trust, at P.O. Box 768 York, South Carolina 29745.