Firefighter's widow finds peace, comfort in 'Be Better' bracelet

Published: Monday, July 8 2013 7:35 a.m. MDT

Juliann should know. She and Andrew had known each other since middle school. Even then, she said, he was “a good guy — fun, handsome, popular. Everybody knew him and liked him.” She confesses to having a crush on him back then, even writing out her future name, “Juliann Ashcraft,” as a classroom doodle again and again. But there was a problem.

“He was just short,” she said. “I would try to set him up with my short friends.”

After they graduated together from Prescott High School in 2003, they stayed in touch. They even dated off and on. Not only did Andrew grow physically — he eventually hit 5-foot-11 — but she noticed how much he had grown in terms of depth and maturity.

“Andrew had great parents who raised him as a strong Christian and instilled a lot of good in him,” she said. That was evident when he joined a rock band after high school that was good enough to do a little touring. While on tour, the other band members would go and do the things that rock band members are stereotypically known for doing, but Andrew always declined. When band members asked why, he would say, “It’s just my personal choice.”

“So ‘Choice’ became his nickname,” Juliann said. “Everyone who knew him in those days called him ‘Choice’ because that’s what he was all about.”

In late 2005, when they were both back in Prescott for the holidays, they started dating again. By the end of February they were engaged, and they were married in Prescott in July 2006.

“I was raised in the LDS Church, and I had always been taught about temple marriage,” she said. “But that wasn’t really a focus in my life at that time. But after we were married and we started having children, it was a lot more important to me, and I told Andrew I wanted to go to the temple so I could have my family sealed to me.”

Andrew, who had been attending church regularly with Juliann, was concerned about her announcement. “It was something we didn’t share, and he didn’t like that,” she said. “So I just sort of tabled it. I didn’t bring it up again.”

LDS missionaries were frequent visitors to their home, and Andrew was also kind and welcoming. “But he was honest, perhaps to a fault sometimes,” Juliann said. “He would say, ‘Thanks for being here. I know this is your job to try to talk to me about your church. But I’m totally not interested.’ ”

That changed suddenly one night when some missionaries prevailed upon him to watch a video about Joseph Smith.

“Something clicked for him that night,” Juliann said. “I don’t know why, but everything just sort of fell into place for him. That night before going to bed he told me he wanted to be baptized. I didn’t really respond — I was afraid he didn’t mean it. But the next morning he said, ‘Yeah, I’m serious.’ ”

Since then, Andrew has been as active in the LDS Church as his job would allow. Together with their two oldest children, Ryder and Shiloh, they were sealed in the church’s Mesa Arizona Temple in 2009.

“Andrew cried more than anyone else in the room that day,” Juliann said.

The past four years have been a time of spiritual growth and development for the entire Ashcraft family, including the addition of two sons, Tate and Choice. The youngest was named for his father's nickname as well as for the fact that physical complications during Juliann's pregnancy prompted recommendations from physicians to terminate the pregnancy — a "choice" they just couldn't make.

“I don’t know why, but our faith has gotten much stronger in the past six months,” Juliann said. “Our whole family has been growing — but especially Andrew. He has become a leader on the crew, a leader at church, a leader in our home. He would lead us in family home evening and family prayer. He would come home and really throw himself into family activities even though I’m sure he wanted to nap because he has this really hard, physically demanding job.

"Andrew represented the church and our family well."

And now, she says, it is her turn to grow.

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