Bride goes ahead with wedding photos, despite tragic loss of firefighter fiance

Loved ones pay tribute to man killed by suspected drunk driver

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group

Photo provided by Jessica Padgett, copyright Loving Life Photography

Sept. 29 was the day Jessica Padgett was supposed to marry her fiance. 

“Everything was planned,” said Padgett, who lives in Indiana. “I bought my dress, (decorations), (set up a) DJ, (the) church, (a) priest, the caterer -- you name it. It was all planned and ready.”

But Padgett’s fiance, Kendall James Murphy, was killed Nov. 10, 2017 by an alleged drunken driver. Murphy, who served as a volunteer firefighter, died while responding to a crash when, police say, another firefighter arrived drunk, hitting him and several vehicles, according to published reports.

Instead of letting the day come and go, Padgett put on her wedding dress and went ahead with much of the event as planned. Mandi Knepp, of Loving Life Photography, captured the emotional experience from behind her camera lens.

As for why Padgett would move forward with the photos, she said she wanted to plan something special.

" ... It was still (our) wedding day,” Padgett said. “It was also a healing process for his family (and) friends, as well as for myself.”

This wasn’t Knepp’s typical Saturday night photographing any other event.

“I (haven't) ever done a session quite like this,” she said. “This session was hard, yet truly a blessing. It was truly an emotional roller coaster, however, I was willing to do whatever Jessica needed. She is one strong lady, and I only hoped it would help in her healing process.”

The couple’s loved ones gathered at Murphy’s grave site to remember him.

Murphy was just 27 years old.

In some of the photos, Padgett posed with Murphy's firefighter gear.

Photos provided by Jessica Padgett, copyright Loving Life Photography

Most emotionally, perhaps, she’s seen kneeling over his grave, as shown above.

The couple were engaged July 26 on the 50-yard line of the Notre Dame football field. Padgett said that was fitting, considering their shared love of football.

Padgett spoke of her deep admiration for her late fiance.

“Kendall was the most loving, kindest man you would ever have met,” Padgett said. “He lived life to the fullest. He had the biggest heart and wanted to impact someone. If someone was sitting by themselves, Kendall would’ve been the one to go over and sit beside that person, because that’s just who Kendall was. He never knew a stranger.

“I did think Kendall’s spirit was with me (that day) because I think that’s where I got the strength from. (It) was the worst day, but overall, he was there to comfort me and protect me. So in the end, I know for a fact he was there beside me the entire time.”

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All photos: provided by Jessica Padgett, copyright Loving Life Photography

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