Jordan Carpenter and Sarah Veazey had only dated a year, but they had an agreement: Their relationship could never bind their individual future plans.
So when Veazey, 22, told Carpenter she wanted to enroll in a school of midwifery in Portland, Ore., Carpenter, an artist who was working as a house painter, said he would move west to support her.
"It wasn't a big decision; we just wanted to," she said. "It was beautiful out there, and it was really simple."
Those plans, though, crumbled Monday night when a pickup struck the couple as they bicycled down a dimly lit back road in Seffner. Carpenter, 22, died of his injuries Tuesday night at Tampa General Hospital.
He and Veazey had been living in Gainesville, but were home for the holidays, staying with their families in Seffner. On Monday night, Carpenter suggested to Veazey that they bike to Brandon and visit Davis Park on Parsons Avenue.
They left Veazey's house about 8 p.m., but shortly after they turned south onto Taylor Road, a 1998 Toyota pickup headed their way.
Hillsborough County sheriff's officials say the driver, Taffy Rimes Carter, 52, of Kathleen, did not see Carpenter. The truck hit both bicyclists, and Carter stopped to call for help, Veazey said. Veazey was treated for minor hand and knee injuries.
Carpenter attended Armwood High School, where fellow seniors chose him as having the "Best Sense of Humor." He was also an artist in many media: paint and ink, video, photography. He painted a mural of the British Isles for an English teacher's classroom wall, said his mother, Donna.
"He was well known at Armwood for his art, and a lot of teachers have been calling about that," she said. "They're pulling all his work together, all the work he's ever done, to give to us."
A vegetarian and nature lover, Carpenter loved to create. He played bass guitar and swapped mix tapes with friends, and was always happy when sketching with nothing more than a pen and paper.
"It just came out of him," Veazey said. "His drawings are immaculate, with insane detail. It's really otherworldly."
He was painting houses for a friend's father when Veazey mentioned her decision to become a midwife. Carpenter did not want to stand in her way, so he decided to come along to Portland, a bicycle-friendly community where the couple could ride often.
"If we ever felt the need to part ways, then that was necessary," Veazey said. "But he and I just really enjoyed each other."
Monday's accident was one of several serious or fatal crashes in the past month involving a bicyclist or pedestrian in Hillsborough County.
On Dec. 11, pedestrian Thomas J. Clancy, 50, was hit and killed by a car on Florida Avenue in Tampa. The motorist faces a charge of driving under the influence.
Hit-and-run crashes killed 38-year-old James E. Harrington Jr., who was struck while crossing Dale Mabry Highway on foot Dec. 19, and Gustavo Marquez, 24, who was hit as he walked across West Lake Drive in Balm on Christmas day.
On Dec. 29, Maurice J. Lemieux, an 85-year-old Sun City Center resident, was struck and killed by a pickup as he stood on U.S. 41 in Ruskin.
And on Tuesday, cyclist Andrew Roy Lance, 21, was hit by a pickup on 33rd Street SE in Ruskin. He was listed in critical condition Wednesday at Tampa General Hospital.
Taylor Road, where Carpenter was struck, is narrow and rural with no sidewalks and few lighted areas, said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.
The accident is under investigation, she said, and no charge has been filed.
Veazey, who was recovering at home Wednesday, said she is no longer sure whether she will move to Oregon, where she has no friends or family.
"I'm just taking it a day at a time now," she said. "I really want to help humanity, and helping women is a big part of that."
Funeral services for Jordan Carpenter are scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. at Serenity Meadows Memorial Park at 6919 Providence Road in Riverview. A memorial service will follow at 2.
Jay Cridlin can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or cridlinsptimes.com.