TRAVERSE CITY — There’s a voice that makes Paul Hurlbert a better person.
It belongs to his wife, Kelly Ann Boyce, who changed his life the moment they met five years ago. She died July 5 when a hit-and-run driver struck and killed her as she pedaled her bicycle home, but he can still hear her. He could be angry, but it’s her voice that tells him to remember to love.
“There’s no way that my life will be as good as it would have been,” Hurlbert said. “But because of how well I got to know her my life will definitely be much better than if I never met her. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Flowers, balloons and a white “ghost bike” now mark the spot in an alley off Railroad Street where Boyce, 29, lay shortly before she died. The memorial is within sight of the home they shared, and so is another reminder Hurlbert has few words to describe — a long black mark that snakes from Washington Street where the driver struck his wife, on down Railroad Street and into the alley’s mouth.
“The memorial is positive energy — people are showing support and love — but that tire mark just has hate written all over it,” he said.
Hurlbert and Boyce would have celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Monday, but instead he’s been surrounded by friends like Mike Moran.
“We’ve been telling stories,” Hurlbert said. “They’ve gotten me laughing. I guess I’ve always been one to joke and joke through pain.”
“It’s how Kelly was, too,” Mike Moran said.
Traverse City police received more than 300 tips in their investigation as they seek the driver of dark pickup truck or SUV, or silver SUV witnesses saw at about 1:50 a.m. the night Boyce died. Hurlbert doesn’t know how he’ll react when the killer is found.
“I don’t know if I’ll want to see this person or not,” he said. “I think what I’ll like to do is just focus on my life. I do hope that nothing like this ever happens to anyone else.
“One reason why people and the whole community is so upset about this is it makes them feel less safe because they realize it could be them,” he said. “Then I feel it hit the community even harder when they found out what caliber of person Kelly was. She was as good as it gets.”
Hurlbert said each day since Boyce’s death has been a bit different, but it’s been better since July 11, when hundreds of people gathered in nearby F & M Park to pay tribute and then embarked on a mass bike ride through town.
“We couldn’t have had a better tribute to Kelly’s life,” he said. “I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people saying they’ve been inspired and they’re going to love a little bit harder, be a little bit kinder, and that would be the kind of legacy she would be so proud of.”
The family also held a private viewing, which Hurlbert said was especially important for Kelly’s father, who works as a contractor in Afghanistan. Her ashes will be spread at a later date.
Hurlbert choked back tears when he said he believes Kelly would say these things to him and the people touched by her story:
“I’ll miss you. Keep loving.”
“Thank you for taking such good care of Paul.”