MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The widow of a man who died weeks after competing in the Rough N Rowdy Boxing Competition in Myrtle Beach is opening up about the loss that shattered her world.
Willie Pedersen suffered a blow to the head during a bout at the competition on Feb. 4. He spent several weeks in a medically-induced coma before passing away.
In addition to his wife, Melissa Pedersen, he left behind two small boys, ages 6 and 3.
For Melissa Pedersen, she doesn't know how she'll ever be able to explain to her children just how great their father was.
"I talked to the oldest one. I said, look, everything I know about this area, I shared with your father. So, everywhere I look, I have memories and stories with him," Pedersen said. "And I said do you mind if I share those with you, and he said 'I wish you would.'"
Pedersen described her husband as a patient and loving father to their two children, Christian and Luke.
"He'll (Luke) still ask, 'Where'd daddy go?'" Pedersen said. "If we're all in the living room together, I've had friends and family come over and open the door to come on in and he'll still run over to the door and say 'Daddy?' I mean he ... it just hurts."
Pedersen first met Willie while they were both serving in the Army. She said she was struck by how genuine and good-natured he was and how he never seemed to be bothered by anything.
"We got stuck on a guard shift together and just started talking, and really never stopped," she said. "I re-enlisted just so I could be around him longer, and it really did work out beautifully."
The couple would have celebrated their 12-year anniversary this June.
As far as his boxing, Pedersen said Willie was always challenging himself physically, and had competed in a similar amateur event years earlier.
She was at home with bronchitis the night her husband was injured, and now wishes she would have been there. Pedersen believes she would have noticed that something was wrong.
Pedersen said her husband had no prior medical history, and never had any serious injuries before.
As Pedersen and her children adjust to their new normal, they're continuing to find support from family and friends.
A part of that new normal is Pedersen now wearing two wedding bands around her finger, thereby helping to ensure the memories of Willie aren't going anywhere.
"The edges are a little bit sharper, they're a little rough," she said. "It fits. Either he had very slender hands or I have very stocky ones, but it fits, so."