Father laid to rest after tragic accident

By Elizabeth Campbell, General assignment reporter, ecampbell@wjxt.com
Published On: Apr 22 2014 05:29:32 AM EDT
Updated On: Apr 22 2014 01:00:14 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Family and friends said their final goodbyes Tuesday to a man who died in a tragic accident on the Mathews Bridge.

Vernon Stephens' car broke down April 11 on the bridge. Another car hit the 39-year-old, throwing him into the river, and his body was found days later.

Stephens and his wife, Andrea, were coming up on their 11-year anniversary, and she can't believe her forever-partner is gone. She talked to Channel 4 about how great of a father he was to their two children, and on Tuesday, loved ones remembered all the good times they had with him.

"He was always happy. He was always happy, always smiling," Andrea Stephens said. "Very mild-tempered, like nothing ever got under his skin, never really got upset about anything. He was just happy.”

Stephens said Vernon was the perfect husband. She went back to nursing school in 2012 and said it kept her away from her family, leaving the father of their two children with his hands full. She said now she is so grateful he had that extra time with their kids because she never would expect that right around their 11-year wedding anniversary she would be raising their children alone.

"He has two children that are crazy about him, I mean, absolutely adore him," Stephens said. "So knowing as his wife that I would be a widow, that my children would be fatherless, what do you say? What do you -- how does one deal with that?”

The last people Vernon was with before he died were Stephens and their two children. Stephens is grateful for that, but she said saying her final goodbye to the man she planned on spending the rest of her life with isn't going to be easy.

"We had it all planned out -- our lives -- we had it all set up," Stephens said. "I have no idea how it'll be fixed, but I do know that God is faithful to us.”

Stephens' family is asking for donations to help support his wife and children with funeral costs, as well as any other financial needs. To donate, click here.

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