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The Love of His Life: Paige

December 07, 2012|By Matt Mauro | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.) — She is a picture of happiness.

"Her nickname was smiles because she had the biggest smile ever," Jared Estes says.  That smile is one of the things that attracted Jared Estes to Paige Johnson when they were in high school in Bucklin.

"She had so many nicknames," Jared says, "Blueeyes was one of them, because she had really bright blue eyes."

Now the only way Jared can look into his wife's beautiful blue eyes, is through pictures.  Paige is gone, killed by drunk driver in a fiery accident on Kellogg almost a year and a half ago.

"So have that ripped away, to have her ripped out, the world is just crazy."  For Jared, it's now a world without the love of his life.  "It's so hard, just her not being here, it makes no sense, just because my whole life was built around us being together."

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Jared is learning to live alone in the same house he and Paige bought before the accident.  Paige is everywhere here, including the kitchen, where she spent more time decorating than cooking.

"As far as cooking at night, she would pretty much as long as it had the work helper at the end of it, she'd, we could cook it," Jared says, "Hamburger Helper, Chicken Helper, Tuna Helper, any of those, she was right on top of that stuff."

She was also on top of decorating the house and organizing their bedroom, which hasn't changed much since the accident.

"Everything's just exactly how she left it," Jared says.  "She was so organized you can see all the sleeves are all lined up according to length as far as a little taller to a little shorter, yeah, she was super-organized." 

A little of that organization's rubbed off on Jared.  He has all the letters they sent to each other in college stacked on the dresser.

"That's the box," says Jared, "the night before the sentencing I spent all night reading through those, just trying to find Paige's voice to take with me.  And I think I found it pretty good.  There were a lot of sweet nuggets in there.  She spilled her heart all the time." 

Little by little, Jared's spilling his heart too.  "I have her chest of stuff I've kind of started."  Inside the chest, are some of Paige's things he treasures most.

"These are her shoes from the wedding, she wore little ballerina slippers.  She wore these little guys. I even have, which is crazy, the night of the accident we went; this is one of the things in my Via Christi bag.  We went to the Thunder game and it's dated March 5th and the accident happened later that night or early the next morning. So it's pretty crazy, but it's one of the things they took out of my pocket when I went into the ambulance."

Jared has something else saved from the night of the accident and from one of the most important nights of his life.

"This one here is her wedding ring," he says, "that they actually took in.   It was burned pretty bad and they took it and cleaned it up and this place cleaned it up and shined it and got it back to what it looks like now.

"Everything in this house, in this town, everything at home, everything in Bucklin has a memory associated with it.  As time goes on, the memories start to be more comforting, but you know, they hurt really bad at first to look at anything like this.  But now, it starts to be more comforting." 

What also comforts Jared is what he's doing now: talking about Paige and the memories they made together.  That's the focus of a street festival in Bucklin every year.  It helps raise money for Paige's memorial fund and for the burn center that's been so much help to Jared.

"It means the world to us," Jared says.  "These people are people we loved, they are our heroes.  They've come out so much for us.

"They were people you were just instantly drawn to," says a friend, Christen Skaer.  "You walk in a room and Paige had a smile that was just electric.  You wanted to be friends with her.  And Jared's one of the funniest people I ever met."

Despite everything that's happened, Jared still has a pretty good sense of humor and a strong sense of pride.

"You can't sit and wallow.  One of my biggest pet peeves, one of the things I hate most is self pity.  I hate it.  I hate the feeling of wallowing in my own self pity.  It's such a waste of time.  I know that's the last thing I'd want her to do if she was in my place right now and I know that's the last thing she would be doing."

Jared certainly is doing what Paige would want; he's on the road to recovery.  He's a dynamic young man with memories of a wonderful past and a resilient attitude to carry him through the toughest times and into a future without the woman he loves.

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