Timothy Wayne Owens, with his mother, Mary Muntean, at his wedding in August 2013. (Courtesy of Mary Muntean)

Timothy Wayne Owens, a counselor at Fort Hood, was known to friends as a stand-up guy who triumphed over a hardscrabble upbringing to become an empathetic military man, one who helped people and defused conflicts.

So, it was no surprise to residents in his home town of Effingham, Ill., to hear that Owens lost his life trying to calm the shooter in Wednesday’s Fort Hood killings.

“He was a brave man,” said Owens’s mother, Mary Muntean, 77, who said she learned that her son had been killed as he tried to talk with Ivan Lopez, who has been identified as the man who killed three people and injured 16 in the shooting on the Army post.

Muntean said she received a call at her Effingham home from her son’s wife, Billy Owens, on Wednesday evening telling her that he had been shot five times after trying to calm Lopez in a post parking lot. Military officials have not released the names of those killed or injured or confirmed reports of how the violence unfolded. But friends of Owens said the account provided by his family fits the man they knew.

“He was always the person you could go talk to,” said Mike Myers, who got to know Owens nearly two decades ago when they worked together at a local restaurant. “He’d give you solutions, he’d listen to everybody. He was just that type of guy.” He recalled Owens trying to defuse a barroom fight by saying, “Hey, man, you don’t need to do that.”

Owens had some tough teenage years. He dropped out of high school in Rolla, Mo., before his senior year and moved to Effingham, where he got a restaurant job and stayed with a series of friends and relatives. He left after about 18 months to join the Army.

The military had a positive effect on Owens, said Wayne Moran, a friend who worked with him at the restaurant and met him again years later.

“He had really turned his life around by joining the Army,” said Moran, 37, who hosts a radio show in the central Illinois town of 12,000. But Moran said Owens’s core character never changed. Owens was a hard worker, he said, who “would give anyone the shirt off his back.”

Owens had a daughter with his first wife, Shelley, friends said. He served in Iraq and Kuwait and at other U.S. bases before being assigned to Fort Hood. He married his second wife, Billy, in August.

The account of Owens’s efforts to calm Lopez before being shot was provided to Muntean by his wife. There was no indication that Owens was familiar with Lopez before his attempted intervention.

“He counseled hundreds of people,” his mother said in a telephone interview from her home, crowded with grieving friends and relatives. She said Owens had recently been told that he was being promoted to staff sergeant.

Glen Welton, a first cousin, recalled Owens as “a very dedicated individual for any endeavor he started, which is why he liked the military so much, because it’s where dedication counted.”

Julie Tate and Alice Crites contributed to this report.