To his wife, Paul Bortner Jr. was the letter that came to life.
"I wrote in a book what I wanted in a man - his heart, his love, even down to the size of his hands, his personality, what he looked like," said Shari Bortner of Manchester Township. "Then I met Paul. He was the carbon copy of everything I wrote. He was my gift from God."
Shari lost her husband of 11 years last Wednesday, when he died at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Lehigh County.
Paul Bortner, 50, died from multiple traumatic injuries he sustained when his vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 16, in the westbound lane of Interstate 76, according to the Lehigh County Coroner's Office.
"I know it was Paul's time," Shari Bortner said. "It's just ironic what happened. He had a great love for chocolate, and the truck he (collided with) was hauling chocolate. And my husband was a parts man for 18-wheeler tractors and that's what killed him."
Paul Bortner Jr.'s brother, Tony Bortner, said the family is grateful that Paul Bortner Jr. wasn't alone at the crash site. The truck driver pulled Paul Bortner away from the fiery crash scene, while another motorist held him until emergency responders arrived, said Tony Bortner, 48, of Spring Grove.
Tony Bortner said he'll never forget the hunting trips he and his brother enjoyed with their father, Paul Bortner Sr. of Spring Grove.
Tony Bortner said that while growing up, his older brother taught him how to maintain cars, get into trouble and give their older sister, now Karen Riddle, a hard time when she had to watch them.
"And he taught me to always help Mom and Dad when we could," Tony Bortner said.
U.S. Army Sgt. Jessica Kendall, 31, Paul Bortner Jr.'s stepdaughter, said she remembers how she and her brother, Jeffery Einsig, gave Paul Bortner Jr. a rough time after their mother introduced them to him when they were teenagers.
"We never seen our mom in love before, and we wanted to make sure he was the real deal," Kendall said. "He made us feel like his own children. I will always look for somebody like that who will show that true heart."
Einsig, of Syracuse, N.Y., is now an active guard reserve staff sergeant with the U.S. Marines, while Kendall is stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Both Tony Bortner and Jessica Kendall said that Paul Bortner created several gardens in his yard to show his love for his wife. He also gave flowers to his neighbors and helped them with their lawn care.
"He always said, 'If I ever die, I hope people say I was a good man,'" Kendall said. "He didn't realize how good he was."
Shari Bortner said her husband passed away peacefully, surrounded by family as she held him.
"I never had someone love me the way he loved me," she said. "I couldn't ask for a better husband. He was a wonderful man."
A Celebration of Life Memorial Service for Paul Bortner Jr. will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at Mount Wolf Community Church, 98 S. Sixth Ave. in Mount Wolf.
Burial will be at the convenience of the family.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at email@example.com.