This year marks the fifth anniversary of Paul Walker’s tragic death. The talented actor, who was best known for his role as Brian O’Conner in the hugely successful Fast & Furious franchise, left an enormous hole in the entertainment industry when the red Porsche Carerra GT that he was traveling in with his friend and business partner, Roger Rodas, crashed into a concrete lamp post in Santa Clarita, California on November 30, 2013.
Both Rodas and Walker lost their lives as a result of the high-impact collision, which caused their Porsche to burst into flames almost instantly.
Tributes to the 40-year-old icon flooded in from across the globe, with A-list stars and ordinary citizens grieving in equal measure. But there are few people who remember the star quite like Kyle and Kristen Upham.
The couple, from Victorville, California, bumped into Walker by pure chance whilst looking for a diamond wedding ring in a Santa Barbara jewelry store in 2004.
At that time, Walker was a well-established actor with several big movies under his belt, including The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Varsity Blues and She’s All That.
“I noticed there was someone else in [the store] but didn’t give it much thought,” recalls Kristen in an interview with CBS in 2013. “We started looking at rings and whatnot and [Kyle] kept saying, ‘Go bigger’ and I kept saying, ‘No, look at the prices’.”
The newlyweds were hoping to find the perfect ring before Kyle was deployed for his second tour of Iraq. But, with limited time and a limited budget, they were finding it difficult.
That was when the military couple recognized Walker in the store. Unable to resist, Kyle walked up to him and begun a conversation. Eventually, Kyle told the California-born actor that he’d be headed back to Iraq, but hoped to return home soon.
“When [Paul] found out Kyle just came back from Iraq – I remember seeing the look on his face. He kind of transformed,” Kristen remembered.
Watch Paul Walker’s final scene in Furious 7. It’s a moment that made movie history and broke millions of hearts around the world…
Once they’d finished talking to Walker, the couple left the store, leaving behind the $10,000 ring that Kristen had fallen hopelessly in love with. However, later that evening, they received a phone call…
On the other end of the line was the saleswoman from the jewelry store who, very mysteriously, asked that they return as quickly as possible.
When they arrived “one of the ladies came out holding a bag and just said, ‘Here’s your ring’,” remembers Kristen. “I think both of our mouths dropped.”
Curious, the couple asked who’d bought the ring. Remaining professional, the saleswoman simply informed them that it was an “anonymous gift.”
For nearly a decade, they speculated that Paul was the generous person behind the kind act. However, with no evidence, they could never be sure. It wasn’t until after his death that they discovered the truth.
Clearly touched by the gesture and keen for the world to know about his selfless act, the saleswoman who had delivered them their ring all those years ago, Irene King, came forward to reveal what really happened that day.
“He called the manager and he said, ‘Umm, the ring that those people are looking at – put it on my tab’,” King remembered. “Soon after that, he just left.”
Kristen and Kyle were overwhelmed by this news. “His real life speaks volumes of his character,” says Kristen. “He really did put his money where his mouth is and did good for this world.”
It’s stories like this that make Paul Walker’s extremely premature death more difficult to comprehend. But, thankfully, kind acts such as this mean that his legacy lives on.
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