Friends remember Jill Buck and her sons Branson, 10, and Aidan, 8, as giving, happy and full of life.

The Buck family lost their mother and two sons in a car accident late Thursday night near Lafayette on Interstate 65. Jill Buck’s car was hit by a semi that failed to slow down in a construction zone. The semi also hit two other vehicles and another semi. A total of five people — including Jill, Branson and Aidan — were killed in the accident.

Jill Buck worked at South Grove Eye Care but also was known as a soccer mom, football mom, dance mom, cheer mom and a loving wife, said friend Kim Sharp. Her nickname for Jill was “Jilly Bean,” since she was always jumping between her obligations as an optometrist and family activities, such as hiking together or attending sports practice, Sharp said.

“If you knew Jill Buck, you knew her family,” Sharp said. “She was crazy in love with Paul, her husband, crazy in love with her children.”

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Sharp met Jill Buck 12 years ago when she entered her office as a patient. But after their first appointment, Sharp said she felt called by God to give Jill Buck a gift. Sharp dropped off a small bottle of shower gel or lotion and started her drive home. On the way back to her house, she got a call from the office to come back.

When Sharp walked back into the office, Jill Buck had tears in her eyes. She explained she had just returned to work after recently giving birth to a stillborn baby named Sophie.

“She said, ‘I had just sat at lunch in the parking lot of a store, and I broke down. And I prayed to God that he would know my pain, and that he loves me,’” Sharp said.

Once Jill Buck came back from lunch and saw the gift, she saw that as the sign of comfort from God that she had asked for, Sharp said.

“From that day forward, for about a year-and-a-half, we met every week just to talk through life,” Sharp said. “She’s my godsend friend. Always has been and always will be.”

The Center Grove community has been mourning the loss of Jill Buck and her sons, from their church to her practice to the school system that the boys and their three siblings attended. The family was well known in the community. Both Paul and Jill Buck grew up on the southside.

A GoFundMe fundraising page was created Monday, asking for $5,000 to cover funeral costs. In three days, community members have donated more than $12,000 to the family through the campaign.

Always thinking of others

Even in the midst of losing three members of his family, Paul Buck has been comforting others, his friends said.

The morning after the accident, he was driving home from Chicago to be with his children. When he arrived, dozens of friends, church members and family were parked nearby and lining his street. When he got out of the car, Paul Buck said, “Who’s first?” and gave every single person a hug, Community Church of Greenwood children’s pastor Gary DeBoard said.

“I will never forget: There were so many people at his house, in his driveway, just waiting to do whatever we could do. He gets out of the car, and the first thing he says is, ‘Who’s first? I need a hug,’ and he went and he hugged everyone,” DeBoard said. “Even in his grief, he was encouraging to people and everyone else around him.”

On Tuesday, Sharp went to Jill Buck’s office at South Grove Eye Care to talk to her co-workers, and Paul Buck walked in. When he did, he was comforting them, instead of the other way around, Sharp said.

Jill Buck worked at multiple eye doctor offices in central Indiana, including South Grove Eye Care, Greenwood Family Eyecare and Health Net, which takes low-income patients or who don’t have the ability to pay to see the doctor. She was known as someone who was always warm, smiling and compassionate, Health Net chief medical officer Dr. Don Trainor said.

“She wasn’t somebody to brag about herself, but she was always willing to help people,” Trainor said. “She was always somebody who would work a patient in.”

Three days after the accident, Paul Buck and his family were at church in their usual spot that Sunday morning, Sharp said. When he was there, he was comforting others and sharing words of encouragement with friends and family, DeBoard said.

“He’s a strong man of faith, and honestly, it has sustained him,” Sharp said. “He’s obviously grieved deeply, but there is such a confidence in their eternity and where they are that he’s standing.”

A great family dynamic

Last year, around the birth date of their stillborn baby Sophie, Paul Buck asked his friends to send Jill Buck a text message or give her a call to let her know that they were thinking of her or praying for her, DeBoard said.

“Their family dynamic was incredibly inspiring,” DeBoard said. “That kind of family is the family that I aspire to have because it was real; it was authentic. They weren’t perfect, of course, but they dealt with things in a real way that real people dealt with things.”

The Bucks liked to travel and work out together, Community Church associate pastor Jason Gallman said. Their family would take trips to Utah, where the couple first lived when they were married, Sharp said.

DeBoard knew Branson, 10, and Aidan, 8, for most of their lives. Getting to know the Buck family showed him what kind of family he should strive for, DeBoard said.

“Sometimes you think, ‘That family’s too good to be true,’” DeBoard said. “They can’t have that much stuff going on, be that successful in life, and have that many kids and be who I think they are. But I’ve known most of their kids all of their lives, and they were exactly who I thought they were.”

On Sunday mornings, DeBoard was used to seeing Aidan and Branson walk in side-by-side. The brothers were in different grade levels, but if they could sit together during Sunday school class, they would, DeBoard said.

“Branson was Aidan’s other appendage. They were together all the time,” DeBoard said. “They were always, always, always, from the very beginning, together.”

The boys liked singing loudly around the house and dancing together, Sharp said.

Branson had Down syndrome, and Aidan knew from a young age that his brother needed more attention than most because of it, DeBoard said.

“He served his brother in a way that I don’t even know how he understood how to do that, but he did it,” DeBoard said.

Branson typically would stick with Aidan, but Aidan never seemed to mind, DeBoard said.

“I’ve never seen a time when Aidan lost patience with Branson, never saw a time where he pushed him away. He always welcomed Branson,” DeBoard said. “It was always amazing that a boy that young understood his brother in that deep way.”