Katie Bartlett, R.I.P.: Lightning Strike Ends Life of Bride Embarking on Epic Love Story

The love story of Kathleen "Katie" Bartlett and Ryan Pocius didn't last for decades, as both would have wanted.

But it continues to shine brightly despite the terrible event that brought it to a premature end in a physical sense, but failed to break their spiritual connection.

That's abundantly clear from Ryan's words, set down as he recovers from injuries sustained during the incident that took Bartlett's life.

The facts of the tragedy, as related in a CBS4 piece on view below, are simple.

Bartlett and Pocius were married at the Denver Botanic Gardens on July 11 — an occasion marked by photos shared on Facebook and a link on a GoFundMe labeled "Katie's Gift to the World."

Six days later, they were hiking on Mount Yale, when lightning struck them both.

Pocius was seriously injured but survived. Bartlett, who taught three-to-five-year-olds at the STARS Early Learning Center, did not.

Yesterday, Pocius shared his feelings on Bartlett's Facebook page. The result is beautifully written and emotionally devastating. Hope you have some tissues nearby.

The essay reads:
Katie was my better half, my lover, my confidant, my partner in many adventures and most of all, she was the love of my life and my best friend. During our wedding on July 11, 2015, part of my vows to her were that, "I would take Katie to be my partner in life, my wife and my one true love." Those words could never be more simple, more elegant or true. She was a partner in every sense of the word - kind, caring, supportive and we always worked to better each other. I wouldn't be half the man I am today had it not been for her.

Our vows went on to say that, "We would cherish our friendship and love each other today, tomorrow and forever." We ended by telling each other that, "as we gave our hands to each other to hold, we gave each other our lives to keep." Although our marriage was short, our love was so much stronger than anyone could imagine. I told myself often that I was so lucky to have found my best friend, such a beautiful woman, and someone who shared the same sense of humor as I.

A wonderful group of fellow hikers and kindred spirits, including the two brothers who were struck with us, a firefighter, a physician and myself worked to try and bring Katie back. I was blessed to get to spend Katie's final moments with her, as our new friends gave her chest compressions and I gave her my own life-breath. We worked for 40 minutes to try and bring her back to no avail. Yet, everyone should know that Katie was doing something she loved - hiking. We were sharing a personal goal that we wanted to accomplish to set our marriage off right - peaking a 14er together, and we achieved that with pictures to prove it. She had said on the hike up that it was the most beautiful hike she had ever been on. She was so happy that day and she was surrounded in a bed of wildflowers as far as her eyes could see as she passed from this world to the next.

Katie is and forever will be my wife and my one true love. She loved me, her family, her friends and the children she taught, more than anything else and put us all above herself. We are all blessed to have known her, to have been loved by her and to have been touched by her. She is watching over us all with her warm and her big heart. Please all join Katie and I, her family and her friends in saying a prayer for her, sharing a memory and thanking her for the wonderful gifts she gave us and this world.

With Love for Katie and All of You,

Ryan Pocius (Katie's husband, her best friend, her sidekick and the luckiest guy in the world)

Even though Pocius is still recovering, the aforementioned GoFundMe page isn't focused on gathering donations to go toward his health care needs. Instead, its goal is more altruistic. Here's the introduction:
On July 11th 2015, Katie married the love of her life, Ryan. Together they embarked on their first journey together as a married couple doing what they both loved best, hiking in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. They had a wonderful week enjoying each others company in the great outdoors. On the last day of their honeymoon they hiked their way to the top of Mt. Yale to enjoy the beautiful scenery around them. On their trek back down the mountain a storm quickly moved overhead. Nearly at treeline, the couple was struck by lightning. Sadly Katie passed away, and her husband was critically injured. Ryan is now recovering, but is heartbroken that his "Katie bear" is gone. Katie had the inscription "Bears for Life" written on the inside of his wedding band because they always called each other by their playful nickname of "bear".

Katie was a unique spirit that left this world too soon. She had a devoted passion for nature, education, the elderly and animals. She was a dedicated special education preschool teacher and had recently earned her master's degree in early childhood development.

In memory of Katie, her husband Ryan, her family, and her friends would like to honor her passions for nature, educating children with special needs, the elderl  and animals. We are fundraising money to distribute to charities in her name, and to honor her life.

We would like to setup a memorial site at the Botanical Gardens in Denver, Colorado, the site of her recent marriage.

An update reveals the charities among which the money raised on the page will be divided: the American Association for the Care of ChildrenSTARS Early Learning Center, the Humane Society, and the Denver Botanic Gardens, for the memorial.

At this writing, more than $4,000 has been contributed toward a goal of $20,000. For more information, click here.

Our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Katie Bartlett.

Here's the CBS4 report.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts