Photo: Loving Life Photography
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (KTVU) - Instead of standing at an altar, a grieving bride shed tears at a cemetery on the day that was supposed to be the happiest of her life.
Jessica Padgett and Kendall Murphy had planned to be married Sept. 29.
Tragically, Murphy - a volunteer firefighter - was killed by an alleged drunk driver on Nov. 10, 2017.
After her fiance's death, Padgett had been dreading their wedding date, but decided she wanted to do something special in his memory. Since Padgett had her wedding dress - along with a wedding photographer scheduled - she gathered her friends and family for a celebration in honor of Murphy.
Padgett tells KTVU, "I was very emotional when I woke up that morning that was supposed to be the day I married my best friend... I was devastated and heartbroken. In the end I was glad that day was over because it was over it reminds me I won't get that special day. I won't have to worry about it until next year."
The couple's bridal party surprised Padgett complete with prepared 'Best Man' and 'Maid of Honor' speeches.
Photographer Mandi Knepp captured images of Padgett throughout the day, including a visit to Murphy's tombstone. "It was an honor to be a part of this special day. It was an emotional rollercoaster, everyone shared laughs and everyone shared many tears," said Knepp.
Padgett was comforted by being surrounded by so much love, and was thankful she didn't spend the day alone. She says "instead of a horrible day, it was a decent day."
When the photos were ready for viewing Knepp included a surprise. She Photoshopped an image of Murphy into the photo with Padgett.
"The first photo was me looking down on Kendall boots. And there was Kendall standing next to me and I lost it. And that meant to me more than she will ever know because I felt like he was there, " said Padgett.
Padgett is remembering Murphy as a family man with a great sense of humor. "He would always put a smile on my face. He was very loving. He always put others before himself... the community absolutely loved him."
As a testament to Murphy's character and love for his community, more than 3,000 people attended his funeral.
Padgett plans to print some of the photos and frame them in her home in loving memory of the love of her life.