KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A family of a Knoxville army veteran chose to have Thanksgiving early to celebrate all of his accomplishments since he’s been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

William Croom is a Knoxville man of many hats. He fought in the Korean War and a tour in Vietnam, owned a local car shop, and he even has a black belt in taekwondo. 

“He’s just like a Knoxville legend,” his oldest daughter, Delisha Croom said.

For more reasons than one, those in the community have always been thankful that he’s been around. He’s been a mentor to many, including a football coach and has held other roles allowing him to get to know those in the area well.

“A lot of them ’til this day say, ‘if it weren’t for Mr. Croom, I don’t know where I’d be right now,'” Delisha said.

Croom’s family came together for an early Thanksgiving to show how grateful they are now that he is facing one of his toughest battles. 

“We are all coming together to celebrate the life of a wonderful father, grandfather, brother, just community member and we’re looking at things from a perspective of not sadness, not grief, but joy,” Croom’s granddaughter, Toni Ben said.

“He is very strong-willed,” Croom’s sister, Sylvia Croom Sterling said. “When he got sick, he was given a diagnosis by a doctor, who’s not God, so he didn’t accept it and neither did we.”

Croom was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but the fight against it is one he’s planning to win.

“I think if we just ride the wave of who we really are inside, keep God first in our mind, we’re fine. The journey will be so much easier,” Croom said.

The continued journey is one he is taking with his family and the community by his side.