BECKLEY, W.Va. — Following his death in a helicopter crash Thursday, West Virginia industrialist Chris Cline’s colleagues and friends have offered tributes with a recurring theme of a man whose personal integrity dictated his approach to business ventures and to his notable philanthropy.

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold, who first met Cline in the mid-1980s, told MetroNews affiliate WJLS-AM he concurs with those sentiments.

Rob Rappold

“I think his manner of operation was in his DNA, obviously, from his parents, and he maintained an air of respect for them and self-respect and true devotion and loyalty to his employees,” said Rappold. “I had the pleasure of working with an insurance agency who has insured Chris’s coal operation over the years. Through that relationship, I was probably closer to his business life, and I would hear things that absolutely fascinated me about his foresight, his vision, and his willingness to take a risk at the right time, which, as far as I know, always paid off.”

Beyond having a talent for making savvy business decisions, Rappold said Cline’s gregarious nature and engaging personality undoubtedly served him well and contributed directly to his success in the corporate sector.

“He was obviously the brains and energy and trend-setter, if you will, for his whole organization. He set the pace and demanded, in a non-demanding way, a certain quality of employee, and rewarded them accordingly, and I think was extremely well-loved and respected by everybody who ever worked with him and for him,” said Rappold.

Recalling Cline’s enthusiasm for competitive sports, Rappold described Cline’s approach to athletic activities as being not unlike his approach to competition in the business world.

“(While) playing in the YMCA over-35 basketball league with Chris, on a locally-sponsored team, Chris came on and played his heart out and, consequently, blew his knee out. And so, it was sad but he just said, ‘You know, these things happen.’ But anywhere you would see Chris, it was like he was your best friend and he was glad to see you.”

Cline, who lived in Beckley for several years, was a supporter of amateur athletics in the region, donating money for construction of the Paul Cline Memorial Sports Complex, which bear his father’s name, near the East Beckley Bypass. The multi-purpose facility is the host site for statewide high school soccer tournaments, each year.

More recently, the Cline Family Foundation pledged $10 million for the construction of the city’s new state-of-the-art YMCA indoor sports center.