He dreamed of opening up his own photography studio and growing his business into a full-time career.
Terrell Smith, a young gay man from Gary, Ind. who was active in Chicago LGBT organizing, died Dec. 16 after he was gunned down in Gary. He was 25.
Smith had been a member of Chicago-based LGBTQ organization National Youth Pride Services (NYPS).
In a remembrance posted on the NYPS website, the organization recalled Smith's enthusiasm for community activism.
"The world may never know that Terrell did work on the national level for the next generation, not just in Chicago and Gary," the post reads. "His work with us impacted young people from California to Florida and we will remember his efforts always."
NYPS honored Smith with their "Code Red member of the month" award in February, noting his community-based efforts.
Smith came out as gay his Sophomore year of high school, said Elesia Davis, a longtime close friend. His family had been supportive, she said, and Smith was open about who he was and what he believed in. Smith cared deeply about gay marriage, Davis said.
But his interests and success extended beyond the LGBT community.
Smith would have graduated from Harrington College of Design next year.
He had also been modeling and was running his own photography business, Tiè Imaging Photography.
"Every year he progressed. Every year he got better," said Davis.
Davis described Smith as motivated, respectable but also-fun loving and likeable.
"He could talk to you for five seconds and you would end up just loving him," she said.
Ieesha Hearne, another of Smith's close friends and aunt figure to him, recalled his creativity and intelligence. She also remembered him as gracious.
"I had the best time of my life," she remembered Smith saying, after every time she invited him out.
The Northwest Times of Indiana reported that Smith died after suffering two gunshot wounds.
According to Davis, authorities told Smith's family that the likely motive was robbery.
Hearne said she is writing local politicians and leaders to ask them what they are doing to curb gun violence in Gary. Hearne cites a spate of recent shootings.
In the case of Smith, she said, that violence ended the life of a young man just beginning to make his mark.
"I knew in my heart if nothing good is going to come out of Gary, this kid's going to make it," she said.
Funeral services will be held Dec. 27 at the Manuel Memorial Funeral Home, 421 W. 5th Ave. in Gary. A wake will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The funeral will begin at 2 p.m.