CONWAY, Wash. — They met working in the fertile fields of the Skagit Valley. Reese Gardner knew immediately Ethan Chapin was something special.
"He was one of the few people that there was nothing bad about him. He was 100% pure. He was honest, just a great person," said Gardner, 18.
The two worked the valley's tulip fields together, forming a tight bond -- making Chapin's murder so difficult to comprehend.
"It still is hard to believe," Gardner said, "especially that something like that could happen. It's an unbelievable thing that someone could do that."
Chapin and three other University of Idaho students were murdered inside an off-campus house two weeks ago. No suspect has been identified.
Tulips are iconic across the Skagit Valley.
Andrew Miller was Chapin's boss on the farm.
"Tulips are a big part of what it means to grow up in the Skagit Valley and enjoy Skagit Valley, but our youth is our number one export," said Miller. "We send them all over the world. I think this is a way we can honor that every spring and remember Ethan."
"He made everyone's lives a little bit better no matter what, and I just think something like that shouldn't be forgotten," added Gardner.
In that spirit, they're planting thousands of tulip bulbs across Conway and Mount Vernon, making "everyone's lives a little bit better."
For Gardner it's therapeutic.
"Knowing I can be helping out and doing something that will help his remembrance is definitely helping me get through this," he said.
The bulbs are being planted at the downtown Mount Vernon interchange with Interstate 5, as well as at the Conway School where Ethan and his two siblings attended from kindergarten through eighth grade.
In the spring they will bloom yellow and white to symbolize joy and peace. The gardens are being called "Ethan's Smile" because of the positivity he radiated. They will serve as a living, loving reminder of a life taken away before it could fully bloom.
"He'll always be here through the tulips," said Gardner.
There are also plans to plant tulips at Ethan's alma mater, Mount Vernon High School and the University of Idaho, as well.