Each day before Chris Fulton hit the road in his transport truck, his wife, Teresa, would kiss him goodbye and say, “Please, drive safely.” Monday was no different.
He had called her from the road to let her know he'd be home soon to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary. Mr. Fulton liked to drive and was proud of his truck. He had saved for years to buy the rig, navigating the highways and back roads of Southern Ontario almost daily after joining Speedy Transport in 2006.
He was in his truck Monday, about an hour away from his London home, when police say a van carrying 13 farm workers ran a stop sign in front of him on a country road in the hamlet of Hampstead, northeast of Stratford.
Mr. Fulton tried to avoid the van, but there wasn't enough time, his father-in-law, Hank Sommers, told family, friends and co-workers at a memorial service Saturday. His truck slammed into the van, sending it careening into the side of a house. Mr. Fulton's truck flipped and landed on its roof.
He was one of 11 men killed in the crash, one of the deadliest in Ontario history. But his attempt to swerve out of the way reduced the carnage and very likely helped save three lives, Mr. Sommers said.
“Chris Fulton was an ordinary man. Chris Fulton was an extraordinary man,” his father-in-law told mourners.
At the service honouring Mr. Fulton, the lives of the other victims were also remembered. They included nine migrant farm workers from Peru and 56-year-old Juan Castillo, who was originally from Nicaragua and had lived in Canada for two decades. His funeral will be held on Sunday in Kitchener.
The group will forever be connected, Chaplain Maureen Dwyer said.
Inside the chapel, a photo of Mr. Fulton, 38, and his wife was displayed, a memory of their wedding day. Teresa Fulton was his soul mate, family members said.
She didn't speak Saturday, dabbing her wet eyes with a white tissue as she sat in the front row. She hugged everyone who spoke about her husband. They shared stories of his childhood in the countryside, of his love of sports – especially golf and the Detroit Tigers baseball team – and of his immense love for his wife.
They started dating when he was 23. He was dimple-faced and polite, his father-in-law recalled. One of the couple's favourite songs was, What a Wonderful World.
Mr. Fulton loved the outdoors and spent countless hours fishing with his father, his sister Lesley Readings said. He was also a handyman, constantly fixing or renovating things around the house he and his wife shared with their dogs and cat. And he was always willing to lend a hand, dropping everything in a second to help others, one of his best friends Steve Hodgins said.
His tragic death has resonated with those who knew him and with many who didn't, such as Judith Dowler. Her husband also drives a truck for a living.
“Every day we hold them in our hearts as they travel the many miles of roadways until they return safely to our arms,” she wrote online on a page of condolences for Mr. Fulton. “My heart is with you at this sad time. I truly know that Chris was a HERO! I believe it is the truckers unwritten rule to put others lives ahead of their own.”
In the pamphlet created for his memorial service, Mr. Fulton beams in a lone photo. He's dressed casually, wearing a burgundy shirt, a grey hoodie and sunglasses. He always wore sunglasses.
His older brother, Dave Fulton, brought a pair to the chapel. The brothers had a Sunday ritual in the fall and winter: They watched football together, cheering for the Denver Broncos. At half time, they often played ping pong. Both men were extremely competitive.
About a year ago, the brothers had a falling out, Dave Fulton recounted at the service. The tiff was small, but they were stubborn. They barely talked to each other in the past 12 months, waiting for the other to apologize. Dave Fulton thought they had all the time in the world to patch things up.
On Monday, when his brother's name appeared on his phone, Dave Fulton thought he was finally calling to apologize. It was Mr. Sommers instead, phoning to tell him his brother was dead.
Remember this lesson, Dave Fulton told mourners, his voice quivering. Life is short. Don't waste its moments.