SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Michael 'Mike' Kittredge II leaves behind a lasting legacy in western Massachusetts.

The founder of Yankee Candle died Wednesday night at age 67 after a brief illness and many are remembering his life.

When we asked those who knew Kittredge, they told Western Mass News he leaves behind a legacy nationwide, but especially in western Massachusetts, calling him a local hero.

“He has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people here who...because of his entrepreneurial spirit...who have jobs and provide for their families. That legacy is a business legacy, but also a legacy of caring for his local community," said Jeffrey Hayden, director of the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College.

Kittredge started Yankee Candle in his family’s home in South Hadley back in 1969.

The company became one of the largest employers in western Massachusetts and is the largest candle manufacturer in the country.

“I know everyone knows about Yankee Candle and everyone loves Yankee Candle," said Cynthia Bush of Hadley.

Kittredge also helped create the Cooley-Dickinson Surgical Center, donated to Holyoke Community College and The Bement School in Deerfield, and was a supporter of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

HCC's Kittredge Center is dedicated to business and workforce development. The college gives a Kittredge Scholarship every year to a student who is pursuing entrepreneurial studies.

“It means a lot. I honestly wasn’t expecting a scholarship at this capacity, so I’m very thankful to Mr. Kittredge," said HCC student Eric Grigoryan

Diana Dukette, chief development officer at Cooley-Dickinson Healthcare, said their surgical center wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Kittredge.

"That was really important to him to be able to give locally, so that the people in our community would benefit from what he was doing...he cared about people and he wanted to make a difference in the world," Dukette explained.

Kittredge innovation’s made the Yankee Candle flagship store one of the most visited attractions in Massachusetts.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to some of the centers he supported. CLICK HERE for more information.

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