What really happened to Todd Chrisley's dad?

Fans of his long-running reality show Chrisley Knows Best will know Todd Chrisley is a family man above all else. The dedicated Christian is a proud patriarch of his clan, whether it's chastising son Chase for his ill-advised scripture tattoo or looking to make amends with estranged daughter Lindsie after a years-long feud, and is never afraid of being the bad guy. Ever since season one premiered on USA back in 2014, two things have been clear; Todd Chrisley was meant to be on reality television, and nothing will keep him from being a good father — even if it means embarrassing himself and/or his children in front of the nation.

Fans are used to seeing Todd tussle with his three children from current wife, Julie, while his two kids from a previous marriage have also had memorable encounters with their father on the show. Even Todd's mother, Faye, has become something of a fan favorite thanks to her hilarious outbursts, which rival even her famous son's for comedic value. The Chrisley patriarch's father, however, whom he presumably learned everything from, has remained something of an unknown in the world of Chrisley Knows Best.

Gene Chrisley fought in the Korean War

As it turns out, there's a very good reason why Todd's beloved father, Gene Chrisley, never appeared on his show. According to Distractify, the elder Chrisley passed away two years before Chrisley Knows Best even premiered. He was 77 years old and battling cancer in Atlanta, Ga., at the time. According to memorial site Find A Grave, which confirms he passed away surrounded by family, which likely included the extended Chrisley clan, Gene was an army vet, having served in the Korean War.

Distractify advises he and Faye tied the knot in the '60s. She was nine years younger than him. They had another son alongside reality star Todd, who shared a throwback of his father in the army in which the young man bears a striking resemblance to him (via Instagram). "Found this today of my dad during his stint in the army, he was 16, I am proud of his sacrifices and will never take them lightly," noted the Chrisley Knows Best star, while several fans marveled at the likeness between the two.

Todd Chrisley's dad was one of a kind

He may not have featured on the show, but Gene is frequently referred to, and always with high regard, on Chrisley Knows Best. As the U.S. Sun advises, during season one, Faye was setting up a dating profile for herself with the help of grandson, Kyle, admitting, "I was just looking for someone to find a cup of coffee with or to go out to dinner. Someone to be a companion."

However, after scrolling through several eligible bachelors, Faye acknowledged, "None of them look like Poppa do they?" to which Kyle responded, "Poppa looked better than all of these people." This led Faye to realize, "I'm not ever gonna find nobody like him." Although Todd supported his mother going out on a date with a new guy, he also argued no matter who it was, he couldn't possibly compare to Gene.  "I'm sure the guy that was there with my mom is a very nice gentleman. But he's not my dad," he argued, revealing Faye's only boyfriend to date was Gene.

The death of Gene Chrisley affected the whole family

Aside from remaining a consistent presence on the show, the Chrisley clan continues to pay tribute to Gene online, too. Chase Chrisley posted a throwback shot of the two of them together in February 2020, captioning it simply, "Miss you bubba" (via Instagram). Likewise, his sister Savannah took to Instagram the previous October to admit that, in spite of how excited she was for the launch of her clothing line, the moment felt bittersweet without her beloved grandfather there cheering her on (via Instagram).

"My Papa Gene was my BIGGEST supporter and fan! I don't think he ever missed a horse show or school event growing up. We were inseparable ... best friends actually. I remember always looking at him during my horse shows just to see his facial expressions because I wanted to make him proud and to no surprise every time I looked he was grinning ear to ear!" she reminisced at the time.

Gene Chrisley's memory lives on in those he left behind

Although Savannah was disappointed Gene isn't present to see how far she's come (admitting she hoped he would have finally ditched his flip-phone so he could take proper photos of her if he were), she also was grateful for the time they did get to spend together. "I thank God for the 15 years that He gave me with you because those were the BEST 15 years. We miss you ... I wish you could be here," she wrote.

Then, in July 2020, Savannah marked eight years since her beloved Poppa passed in another emotional post: "I will never forget your smell ... your laughs ... your hugs ... and all of our singing in the car! I miss you more than anything in this world ... wish I could've had a few more years with you," she captioned the same shot of her snuggling happily on his lap alongside Chase (via Instagram). Gene Chrisley may have been taken from his family, but his presence remains keenly felt from his wife to his son and grandchildren alike.