Donald A. Perry, Chick-fil-A’s Vice President of Corporate Public Relations, died of a heart attack Friday morning, according to WRBL News 3 in Columbus, Georgia.

(Related: ‘Absolute Intolerance’: Santorum Steps in to Defend Chick-Fil-A)

News of his death comes as the company is dealing with heavy fallout from comments made by CEO Dan Cathy about his support for traditional marriage.

Chick Fil A PR Director Dies of Heart Attack | Chick fil AImage courtesy The University of Georgia

Following his passing, Chick-fil-A Inc. released the following statement:

We are saddened to report the news to you that our dear friend Don Perry, vice president of public relations, passed away suddenly this morning.

Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years.  For many of you in the media, he was the spokesperson for Chick-fil-A.  He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Perry was an active member of his faith community. As an elder of Hillcrest Church of Christ, he enjoyed “leading his church fellowship cell group, as well as working to help maintain harmony in the congregation,” according to the church’s online information.

“One of the challenges sometimes is helping to reconcile differing views among members,” Perry said, according to the church, “but we work to keep unity of the faith.”

(Related: Chicago Alderman Vowing to Block Chick-Fil-A Suggests Company Discriminates Against Gays)

Perry’s alma mater, the University of Georgia, describes him a hard-working faith-based man: “Perry grew up on a farm in Valdosta watching ‘Bewitched’ and knew that he wanted a job that required a briefcase … When he started working for the family-owned company 28 years ago, he was the PR staff.”

“I came on board in 1983 to literally start the public relations function here, because the company was young, growing and emerging,” he told Georgia Magazine.

“The company was trying to move beyond just a small, regional family chain to become a national brand,” he added.

Perry was instrumental in helping Chick-fil-A achieve that goal.

“We’ve seen Chick-fil-A certainly grow up and progress over the years,” he added.

This story has been updated. Front page photo source: Peter Frey

(H/T: Daily Caller)