Tanya Jones will never forget the final conversation she had with Nicholas Funke, her partner of seven years.
“I got to tell him that I loved him and he said the same and that was the last thing I ever said to him,” she said.
“We were perfect for each other no question.”
The couple had plans to get married. Their bright future was shattered on Feb. 11 when Funke drove home to Surrey after visiting family in Vernon.
Jones spoke to Funke by phone before he left Merritt. Thirty minutes later, the horticulturalist was driving southbound on the Coquihalla Highway when he came upon a multi-vehicle crash in the northbound lanes near Larson Hill. Funke pulled over to assist as a Good Samaritan in slippery, icy conditions.
“He couldn’t keep going. He just needed to stop and help and that was the last thing that he did was stop to help somebody else,” she said.
“That was just his nature. He couldn’t help himself but to care about those people around him.”
While trying to help the initial crash victims – including a 78-year-old man who was seriously injured – Central Interior Traffic Services RCMP say Funke was struck and killed by another vehicle.
“We’re supposed to be planning our wedding this year. I’m not supposed to be planning a celebration of life,” Jones said.
Funke was well respected in the province’s horticulture industry. He worked for Bartlett Tree Experts and served as the BC Landscape and Nursery Association’s certification chair, mentoring young people entering the field.
“If you wanted to learn and be better you could count on him to help you do that,” Jones said.
Jones is hoping to set up a horticulture scholarship in Funke’s name as she struggles to move forward without her soulmate.
“Nicholas was gregarious and a pillar of strength… He made my life better and every person that he was around, he made their lives better right to the end. He was helping and being spectacular right to the very end.”
An online fundraising campaign has been set up help Jones cover the costs of Funke’s memorial, and to support her while she grieves.
— With files from Simon Little