LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - He was a proud father, the "cool" uncle, and he's a hero. John Palmer was all of that to his family.
"He was a friend not just an uncle," described Lisa Payne, Palmer's sister-in-law and Godmother of his only son Luke, remembers John as the competitive type.
"He doesn't want to lose," she said, adding that he was also the strong, silent type. "He was one of those silent type guys that showed up when least expected."
On June 30th, John was there when his 22-year-old and 17-year-old nephews needed his help the most.
"It was a family trip, it was their first day out and they hadn't been on the beach five minutes," said Payne, "I guess they got out there into that riptide that was too strong and my understanding was John was pushing the boys forward."
John didn't make it but his nephews did, that was 22 days ago. His son, wife, and sister were all on the beach that day, but fortunately Payne said Luke was down the beach and didn't see his father in the water.
"It becomes more real, and my nephew, who is six, is asking a million questions and the questions are all around 'why?' and none of us know why. We can tell him over and over that 'God needed daddy,' and he says, 'But I needed daddy,'" said Payne.
While John may have lost his life, he saved two others, forever leaving a legacy in the lives he touched.
"Luke said the prayer, Luke said 'John Michael Palmer, you're a good swimmer. I hope you come back to me as an angel.'"
That's what the family will always remember.
The family is now working on a fund that will help pay for six-year-old Luke's education.