A true hero for everyone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2001

St. John the Baptist Parish will never know the full extent of its loss with the death this week of Stephanie “Nikki” Wilking. We will never know what this 17-year-old would have accomplished, given 50 or 60 more years of creative, productive and caring life. We hear a lot of talk nowadays about role models and mentors. These are people we look to for inspiration, guidance and motivation. What we are really talking about are heroes. Webster defines a hero as a person of courage, character and accomplishment. To many in the St. John Sheriff’s Office, Nikki was a hero. She saw a need and, sweeping aside obstacles, accomplished what no one expected she could do. The death of Deputy Barton Granier in January 1996 touched her young soul. She went to her mother, Paula, and her DARE officer, Lt. Mike Hoover, and asked what she could do to keep other children from suffering the loss of a parent, such as Granier’s children suffered. This showed a sensitivity and maturity far beyond the average 12-year-old – and beyond that of many adults. In this, Nikki became a life-saver, working to preserve the lives of her own heroes – the protectors of our society, our deputies. And for this tireless effort she remains loved by the department and its officers. We give a lot of talk about accomplishing something with our lives. Nikki saw obstacles as challenges and saw roadblocks as stepping stones. Her example of intelligence, drive, dedication and heart should keep her memory alive, and her example should inspire others to carry on her work. What could she have done with 50 more years? This was a young lady who could have accomplished literally anything in her life, met every goal, brought alive every dream. At the time of her death she was already making plans to fund replacement vests and add more vests for K-9 officers, expanding on what she had already done. In a time when many people despair of the coming generation, Nikki stood out as a young person who was willing to work hard and make a positive contribution to society, and let nothing deter her – not even her youth. Many young people think to themselves that they’ll make their mark tomorrow or someday, if at all. For Stephanie Wilking, today wasn’t soon enough. She had a short life, but she crammed it with dedication to others, service above self and sharing of her dream – making it reality. Her example and her inspiration should live on. She made her life count for something, and this should motivate others to make every single day count for something as well. Many people wonder what the purpose of life is. Stephanie Wilking found her purpose early – to serve others, to offer everything she could to help others, and to care. She was a true hero in the best and finest sense of the word. L’Observateur