Written by Joe Fairchild
I have no clue how to carry on without Ze’s wonderful charm in our lives. She was the very best of the best — such a loving wife and mother. Our son Nick and I were so lucky she was able to show us the love she brought to this world. She was a true angel here on earth. Everything about her is remembered in happy thoughts. My heart aches tremendously, but I need to learn to be strong, as I know she would have been had it been me.
Ze was a true inspiration to my life, as is her culture and family. She was born in Laos, as part of the Hmong tribe. Her father was fighting for the U.S. when the Vietnam War ended, so they had to flee their county or face genocide. For more than two months, she walked and lived with her parents and five siblings along more than 100 miles of the Ho Chi Minh jungle trail to reach Thailand. There they lived in a refugee camp for five or six years before gaining U.S. asylum in 1981. Ze was such a creative person because she grew up with nothing in the camp with which to play, except sticks and dirt.
Her family settled in Long Beach. After high school, Ze took the postal exam that landed her a job in Goleta. Her father’s hand had been disabled by a landmine and Ze wanted to help her parents. She was very brave — the first child to venture out on her own from Long Beach. Ze felt so happy to be included in our culture.
Ze had no ego; she never thought she was beautiful until I told her back in late 1992 when we started to date. We met in 1989 when were both working for the Goleta Post Office, but did not connect until I changed jobs and we crossed paths in a City College tennis class. I eventually asked her to marry me, and was accepted by her family after a few months of long talks with her parents. We were married in June 1994 and Nick was born in October 1998. Ze was incredibly happy with him and was the best mom anybody could ever have. She was so selfless, doing everything for him; she breastfed him for over two years and made sure he wanted for nothing, except now to be held by her again. Ze would work nights in order to be home with Nick during the day. She wanted one of us to be with him always.
At the post office, Ze was always bubbly and eager to help others. The supervisor knew he could assign something above and beyond; she’d always accept with a smile and say, “Thank you.” Ze is the only girl I ever took to my parents’ place. She didn’t mind putting on my dad’s old, dirty overalls and ear protectors to help me do yard work, wack weeds, and trim trees; she would just smile.
I have been taking care of Nick for two months now without Ze by my side. He knows what happened, but doesn’t seem to be accepting it well. We were together when we saw her body for the first time since the tragedy. We talked to her and told her we loved her. At the burial, Nick sat on my lap nice and quiet the whole time.
Ze’s real name was “Zeb,” which means “rock” in the Hmong language. She was our rock and the foundation of our lives together here on earth. She will be missed forever, but will live on through Nick and me. I will follow in her footsteps and bring Nick up just as she would have wished. I will think of her in everything we do.
If anything comes of this tragedy, please let it be for everyone to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Never think ill of others. In regards to race, creed, or color, there is none. We are all one species: human. Let’s live together in harmony.
On January 30, Ze Fairchild was fatally shot by Jennifer Sanmarcos at the Goleta Post Office.