Editor’s note: Paul Quintana died April 6 when he was hit by driver Andrew Luttrell while on his motorcycle on George Washington Way in Richland. Luttrell, who told police he’d taken his eyes off the road to adjust his car’s in-dash CD player, killed himself two weeks later. The tragic one-two punch has left two families grieving, two circles of friends hurting, and the Herald is profiling both men. Here is Quintana’s story; Luttrell’s can be found here.
Paul and Mari Quintana met in an upper-division Spanish class.
They were students at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, nearing the end of their studies.
The class had been meeting for a few weeks when Paul transferred in.
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Mari usually sat closer to the front, but on that day, for some reason, she headed to the back. When Paul walked in, he took the desk next to hers.
They got to talking and hit it off. Mari thought he was smart, genuine, caring and cute. Paul was impressed with her, too.
They developed a friendship, eventually falling in love.
Paul liked to tell the story of how they met, saying it was a little like a fairy tale.
He also liked to tease that while Mari wore sweats on that first day, she dressed up for class after that.
That’s the way he was — funny, winning, loving and supremely proud of his wife and family.
After finishing college, Paul and Mari took a leap and moved together to Yakima, where Paul had found a job with a law firm.
They continued building a life together, marrying on Sept. 10, 2011.
Mari picked the date — 9/10/11— because she thought it would be easy for Paul to remember. “He loved it, too” and thought it was special, she told the Herald.
Their wedding was in Steilacoom, where Mari graduated from high school. Paul encouraged her to take charge of putting together her dream day.
He handled his bachelor party, choosing to go whitewater rafting with friends.
That was in keeping with Paul’s adventurous spirit — he took flying lessons, rode motorcycles, went scuba diving. He relished being outside and having fun.
He also was an optimist. Steilacoom is on the west side, and there was a chance it would rain on the couple’s wedding day.
“People were saying, ‘Does Mari have a backup plan in case it rains?’” Mari recalled.
But Paul was confident. “He said, ‘It won’t rain. It’s Saturday, the sun will come out (at least once)’” — a mantra he often repeated in life.
He was right — no rain fell on their wedding and it was the hottest day of the year.
Paul was born in El Salvador — his father also is named Paul and his mother is Marilu — and lived there for several years.
The family eventually moved to Mexico and then the U.S., settling in the Walla Walla area.
As a boy, he helped his parents, who were still learning English. “He’d speak to the phone company, the power company. He’d go with me to the bank,” Marilu Quintana said.
He taught us how to be strong women but to also have big hearts. He was a very loving brother who led by example.
Mirza Michel, sister
Paul also watched over his younger twin sisters, Mirza and Tzire, when his parents had to leave early for work. He prepared breakfast, made sure they had what they needed for school and got them on the bus. “He taught us how to be strong women but to also have big hearts,” Mirza said. “He was a very loving brother who led by example.”
He was unfailingly generous, even as a boy, his family said. He’d give his toys away. On visits to El Salvador, he’d empty his pockets and give the shirt off his back, the shoes off his feet.
Paul excelled in school, attending Walla Walla High and taking classes at the local community college through Running Start. He became a certified nursing assistant and went on to study law and justice at Central. He minored in Spanish.
In Yakima, he worked for a couple of different law firms before joining Evergreen Financial Services, working in collections.
Denice Smith, compliance officer for the company, which has offices in Yakima, Richland and Olympia, said Paul was an exemplary employee.
“He was always kind and willing to go above and beyond for our customers and employees,” she said. “(His death) is a tremendous loss to his family and our company.”
He was always kind and willing to go above and beyond for our customers and employees. (His death) is a tremendous loss to his family and our company.
Denice Smith, Evergreen Financial Services
Paul worked for Evergreen in Yakima for several years before moving to the Richland office.
He and Mari picked out a lot near Badger Mountain and built their dream house.
Maggie Miller, the couple’s real estate agent, also built a home nearby and grew close to Paul and Mari.
“Paul was the life of the party,” she said. The kind of person who’d light up a room.
He also was quick to help others, including Miller’s husband. “Paul once dropped everything to come help (install a basketball hoop),” Miller said. After the two men were finished, they spent time shooting baskets and talking about their kids.
Paul’s children were the lights of his life. He had a son, Michael, 14, from a previous relationship, and together he and Mari had Christian, 2 1/2 , and Jessica, 8 months.
He was proud of Michael, encouraging him in school, playing video games with him, enlisting him in projects around the house.
He also relished time with Christian. The two often were spotted on bicycles around the neighborhood.
And when Jessica came along, Paul was overjoyed. “He swooped her up and started making phone calls. He was so proud,” Mari said.
The family, part of Columbia Community Church in Richland, spent nearly all their time together. Meal times were especially important, with the family gathering for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
He set an example of being helpful, being kind. Those are things that I wake up thinking — how do I make people’s lives better today? Because that’s what my husband would do.
Mari Quintana, wife
On April 6, Paul had come home for lunch as usual. Mari made his favorite, a spicy sauce called mole, and he said how much he loved it.
He’d had a good day, Mari said — a good year, really. They were in their dream home, they had their kids and he was doing well at work. “He really did have it all,” she said.
Paul liked to say, “work hard and play hard,” and he had the work-life balance down, Mari said.
He was quick to help others, he regularly donated blood, he doted on his children, he tried new things. While scuba diving in Belize, he and Mari went down 60 feet, with Paul close enough to touch a sea turtle.
The next week, back in the U.S., they went snowboarding — from one adventure to another.
“I know he’s watching over us and saying, ‘Even though I don’t get to be with you guys, live your life to the fullest.’ He set an example of being helpful, being kind. Those are things that I wake up thinking — how do I make people’s lives better today? Because that’s what my husband would do,” Mari said.
“I’m sad for myself because I don’t have my husband. I’m also sad for him, because he doesn’t get to see his children grow up. He had so much to give the world,” she said. “I’m grateful he has a legacy that will live on. He really lived life to the fullest.”
A GoFundMe account is set up to help Mari and her kids. To donate, go to gofundme.com/SupportForTheQuintanas.