Instead of carrying out plans for his wife Crystal's birthday last month, Mack Ta found himself planning a funeral for her and their 5-year-old son, Vince.

Instead of carrying out plans for his wife Crystal's birthday last month, Mack Ta found himself planning a funeral for her and their 5-year-old son, Vince.

Crystal and Vince were killed in a car accident Jan. 6 on U.S. Route 62 in Monroe Township when she lost control of her car on the icy roadway and was hit broadside by a truck.

Mack said Crystal was still dropping hints about her birthday the day before the accident. He said he pretended not to catch her hints, but had already ordered flowers and made restaurant reservations.

In hindsight, he said he would have done things differently.

The couple, who moved to Johnstown in 2003, had talked about getting life insurance, he said, but never went beyond the talking stage.

Friends of the couple, including Tammi Johnson, are planning a Saturday, March 7, benefit for Mack from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Central Ohio Youth for Christ Building, formerly the Catholic Church Parish Hall on South Main Street in Johnstown. The fundraiser will be an indoor garage/bake sale with direct sale vendors on site. A silent auction and door prizes are being planned.

An account has also been established in Mack Ta's name at Park National Bank.

Mack is left to care for the couple's 5-month-old son Brendan.

Mack had asked his wife to take both boys on the day of the accident, but she hesitated and asked him to take the baby with him.

Every time Mack's grief breaks his spirit, he said, baby Brendan somehow brings him back.

When a trooper broke the news about the accident, Mack said, "I thought I would die that day. When I thought that, he (Brendan) started to cry. Then that thought went away. I pulled myself together. Every time I break, he comes into the picture."

The couple's love story began in North Carolina in 1995, when Mack's friend John told him about meeting a beautiful girl named Crystal at a mall. Crystal got Mack together with a friend of hers, and the two couples double-dated. It wasn't long before the real "couple" emerged; Mack's date made up with her old boyfriend and Crystal revealed that she and her date were really just friends.

Mack and Crystal dated for five years, became engaged in 2000 and married in 2001.

The two started a nail salon, GQ Nails, in the Kroger Shopping Center in 2003, the same year they purchased their home in Leafy Dell.

Johnson met the couple at GQ, where she was a customer.

"I went there every two to three weeks to get my nails done," she said. "When they sold the business, I stopped going. It just wasn't the same without them.

"As I told Mack, I believe that most people went there because of the two of them, getting our nails done was just coincidental," Johnson said. 'They were such a wonderful and funny couple. Their clients loved them. It was like they were family."

Mack said they didn't want to sell the business, but finances made it necessary. He now works in Canal Winchester at Pamper Me, a nail salon owned by his aunt. The plan was for Crystal to manage that shop while Mack trained to become a police officer.

Mack said that dream died with his wife, who left him with a laptop full of video and digital photo albums of their life together.

Saying the heartache is too much to bear, Mack has temporarily removed their pictures from the walls of their home. But he can't help but think of Vince.

When he heard a child say "daddy" at the bank, Mack said, he turned out of habit -- then tears welled up in his eyes.

"I have beautiful memories," he said.

Being a couple that discussed "everything," Mack said he and Crystal talked about what they would do if one died before the other.

"We did a pinkie promise," he said. "If I went first, she would grieve then remarry. I made her promise."

She made him commit to the same promise.