Keith Smith's smile could change a bad day, and Jessica Matthes was the apple of her father's eye.
When the couple were killed in a DUI crash last year, the lives of their relatives were heart-breakingly and forever changed.
Mournful remembrances offered Friday in a Fresno courtroom during a sentencing hearing for DUI driver Larry Garcia moved many in the courtroom to tears -- even some female inmates awaiting hearings in other cases.
Fresno County Superior Court Commissioner Brant Bramer sentenced Garcia, 30, to 12 years in prison -- the maximum possible -- for driving through a red light at Minnewawa and Barstow avenues on Nov. 27, 2011. Smith, 34, of Clovis, died at the scene. Matthes, 31, of Sacramento, died at Community Regional Medical Center.
The crash that took the lives of two beloved people altered not only the destinies of their family members but also of the convicted drunken driver who listened tearfully to their testimony in court.
"My dad had the greatest smile in the whole world," said Kelsey Smith, 16. "He will never be able to see my graduation from high school, walk me down the aisle or see any of my kids."
Alissa Smith, Kelsey's older sister, said their father "knew how to make your bad day better." Since the crash, she said, there have been a lot of bad days: "I lost one of my best friends. ... It's been 10 months and I still live with the pain I got the first day."
Staci Davis, Keith Smith's ex-wife, said the 27th of each month is "a painful experience" in the home she shares with their daughters.
She said father-daughter dances have turned into mother-daughter dances, and she's determined to walk her daughters down the aisle when they are married.
Jennifer Matthes, Jessica's younger sister, recalled the horror of taking the call from the coroner notifying the family of her sister's death and then having to identify her body.
"Walking up the stairs to the coroner's office I cried in a painful way that I never cried before," Matthes said. "I buried my sister the day after my birthday."
And visiting the grave site offers little solace.
"I look at grass and a hard stone," she said. "I don't get to see her face. I don't get to hug her."
Ron Matthes, Jessica's father, was still too distraught over his daughter's death to attend Friday's hearing. His letter, read by prosecutor Dennis Versosa, said pictures of his eldest daughter "that once made me happy, now make me cry."
He bought his first suit to attend his daughter's funeral and visits his daughter's grave weekly to lay fresh flowers at her headstone.
Jessica bought her first house just before her death, and she and Keith Smith were preparing to move in. They never got unpacked.
Jessica's stepmother, Susan Matthes, said her husband talked about helping Jessica fix up her new home.
"Ron is a broken man now; there is no joy in our house," she said.
Court Commissioner Bramer said it was clear that the couple had lived their lives in a way that brought out love in others.
He urged the Smith and Matthes families to channel their love into something positive -- something Smith and Matthes would want for them.
"They would want you to grieve, but they would also want you to move on," he said. "These people did something right in all of your lives. Make these people proud every single day."
To the Matthes family, Bramer said: "Grieve the loss, but go on from here. ... Don't let the drunk driver win."
To Smith's daughters, he also offered a few uplifting words about their father.
"He won't be there physically, but he will there in here," he said moving his hand over his heart. "He is going to be there because you're there."
Before sentencing, he also challenged Garcia to make something of his life in the names of his victims.
"Live your life to make these two people proud," Bramer said. "We, as a society, have lost two absolutely wonderful human beings."
Before speaking, Garcia, his hands cuffed, wiped his eyes with the red sleeves of his jail jumpsuit. His words were brief and poignant.
"A day hasn't gone by that I didn't wish it was me," the Clovis man told the court. "With all my heart and soul, I apologize."
As the families filed out of the courtroom, teary-eyed members of Garcia's family rose from the back row, extended their sympathies and exchanged hugs with members of the Smith and Matthes families.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, firstname.lastname@example.org or @beebenjamin on Twitter.