Local photographer captures spirit of love after groom dies

Miami Valley News

WAPAKONETA, Ohio (WDTN) — A Wapakoneta photographer captures the spirit of love between one young couple after the groom passes away.

Evan Winner and Olivia Kunkler shared the kind of love that most people long for.

“He was very courteous, very sweet, a gentleman,” smiles Olivia, recounting her first impressions of Evan. “I was really attracted to him talking about his faith and wearing a cross necklace.”

From their first date in 2019, they were meant to be.

“I just knew, and he knew too,” says Olivia.

As they continued dating, their relationship grew.

“We started going to church together all the time. Our faith was our biggest foundation,” says Olivia.

On March 7, 2020, Evan proposed near the Jesus statue outside of Solid Rock Church in Monroe.

“We walked around the path around the pond, and we prayed a rosary together. And then we were taking pictures, and he said ‘I love that you pray with me. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?'” recalls Olivia.

They were set to be married on January 2, 2021 at St. Henry Catholic Church.

“Coming together in the church was something both of us really wanted,” says Olivia.

After their engagement and with wedding plans moving forward, the couple began building a house right outside of Sidney in Fort Loramie. On September 15, 2020, tragedy struck. They had just finished the foundation when Evan was killed in an accident while moving a track hoe onto a semi. Evan was airlifted to the hospital, but he died before Olivia was able to get to the hospital and say good-bye.

“He was holding onto his cross (necklace) at the scene,” Olivia states as she clutches that same necklace to her heart.

“We don’t understand this now, but we will. It will all make sense some day,” cries Olivia. “Evan’s biggest thing was never fear to die or else you’ll never live, and I live by that daily now.”

The day after Evan’s death, they had a mass for him.

“It occurred to me during mass that I should get in my dress and take the pictures,” states Olivia as she began to cancel wedding plans and plan a celebration of life for Evan.

Struggling to find meaning and looking for comfort, Olivia turned to her engagement photographer, Jeff Muller of ClouStudio.

“Soon as she told me what she wanted to do, I was on board. I was like whatever you want to do,” states Jeff.

“I asked him if he knew how to do the holographic pictures, which he had never done before,” says Olivia. “I put Jeff up to a challenge.”

She met Jeff at the church on what was supposed to be her wedding day. Her family, as well as Evan’s came for support.

“His parents and my parents got me flowers from him,” cries Olivia.

As Jeff photographed Olivia, he thought of ways to capture Evan’s memory in the photos.

“I wanted to create pictures that would last her a lifetime,” says Jeff.

“The holographic pictures–the one looks like he’s coming out of the clouds in Heaven, and the other one I can literally feel him touching me,” tears up Olivia, “They’re just real. You just feel him.”

That day, she also visited Evan’s grave where Jeff also took pictures.

“I wrote him a letter that morning, something I probably would’ve done on our wedding day. I read that to him when I was out at the cemetery,” says Olivia describing the emotional scene.

Even in losing Evan she never lost her faith. Now holding Evan’s memory in her heart, she has photos to hold onto as a tangible reminder of their intangible love.

“They’re the most beautiful pictures ever,” says Olivia.

“You have cherish every moment. You never get them back,” says Jeff.

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