Chattanooga's outdoor community remembers Erich Bell

Staff photo / Erich Bell photographed in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, in 2017.

Erich Bell was a bear-sized man, who gave hugs that matched his stature.

"For anyone who knew Erich, I am sure that you would give anything for a big, burly, crushing bear hug from him," says Brandon Beavers, who met Erich while learning to rappel.

"That he was loved by so many was not a fluke, but a reflection of the teddy-bear [energy] he gave off to everyone," says William Shrewsbury, Erich's friend, former roommate and owner of On Rope 1.

Erich was an avid outdoorsman, a caver, paddler and wildlife rehabilitator - almost always accompanied by his adventure sidekick, Polly, a trained emotional support Chihuahua. He was also a combat veteran of both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, who spoke openly about his ongoing battle with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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