Melissa Oliver decided as a young girl that she and her father would dance to “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion when she got married.
Now 25, she will marry high school sweetheart Ryan Storz on Oct. 1.
Her dad won’t walk her down the aisle. They won’t share a dance. And in the front-row seat she would have reserved for him will sit a framed photograph of her father, Danny Oliver, a Sacramento County deputy sheriff who was killed in the line of duty last October.
With less than a year to the occasion, Melissa has selected her bridesmaids, slotted a venue in midtown, arranged the couple’s first dance and even initiated the seemingly insurmountable task that is bridal gown shopping.
Melissa is also planning for that empty seat.
“I always thought my dad would be there for my wedding. I mean, I’ve had my father-daughter dance song picked out since I was a little girl. It’s really hard for me, especially remembering how he used say all the time that he couldn’t wait for my wedding.”Book of Dreams 2015: How to donate
Danny Oliver – who was 47 years old when he was gunned down – was a dedicated street cop, who dealt with some of Sacramento County’s toughest criminals, his widow Susan Oliver told The Bee last year. He was a beloved community advocate who personally answered concerned individuals’ emails and attended town hall meetings, no matter how small.
At home, Danny was an involved and supportive father to Melissa and her younger sister Jenny, 13.
Melissa and Danny shared a mutual love for athletics, frequenting soccer and basketball games together. In the month before his death, the father-daughter duo took up Crossfit and bonded each week in the gym.
“I think it’s so rare these days that you see such an incredible bond between a father and daughter. Melissa and her dad truly encapsulated,” her cousin Kari Elrod said.
Despite her loss, Melissa never allowed grief to get the best of her.
“My dad always told me, ‘You can be sad for a day, but you’ve gotta pull yourself up tomorrow,’ ” she said. “So, instead of going into a dark place, I decided to help people.”
In January, Melissa left her administrative job at an engineering firm and is attending Folsom Lake Community College as a psychology major and has applied to Sacramento State for the fall, pursuing a career in grief counseling. Inspired by support she received through the organization National Concerns of Police Survivors, Melissa plans to specialize in serving the survived family members of fallen law enforcement officers.
“What people should know about Melissa is that she cares about everyone,” Storz said. “She puts literally everyone before herself.”
Going back to school has meant forgoing a steady income and made affording basic wedding expenses a challenge for Melissa and her fiancé.
“Without Melissa having her father here, everything changes – and unfortunately that includes paying for the wedding,” Elrod said. To save additional money, the couple moved in with Elrod and her husband in August.
Contributions made by Book of Dreams readers would help ease the couple’s financial burden and make for a memorable wedding day, by helping buy Melissa’s bridal gown, Ryan’s groom’s suit and a wedding cake.
“No amount of money or material items will change the fact that Melissa’s dad won’t be there, but giving Melissa the wedding of her dreams might help alleviate some of that pain,” Elrod said.
Melissa will sew one of her father’s Sacramento County sheriff’s patches into the lining of her dress.
“That way, he’ll still be walking me down the aisle,” she said.