Wilkerson remembered as genuine, smart



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One of Anthony Wilkerson's senior pictures. Wilkerson passed away on November 20 in his hometown of Indianapolis. Courtesy of Elizabeth Haviland Buy Photos

Senior Elizabeth Haviland  walked into Mother Bear’s to take a picture of some writing on the wall.

She said she, along with her mother, Amy Davis and her brother, freshman Anthony Wilkerson, dined together at Mother Bear’s earlier this year. At the table, Wilkerson wrote his initials, AJW, and the year he ?enrolled at IU.

She had written a reference to Wilkerson’s nickname, “Anfernie,” which stemmed from her being unable to pronounce Anthony when she was younger.

Haviland said everybody called her brother Fernie, but she liked to use variations of it, like Fernace, ?Inferno and Fernesuela.

“I love referring to him in weird ways,” she said, recanting stories of the brother she recently lost.

She said those initials were important to her because they were something she could go and see, a piece of her brother still on campus.

Anthony Wilkerson died Nov. 20.

Despite that, Haviland said she and her family believe Wilkerson’s life is what was really important.

Wilkerson was living in Read Residence Center with two suitemates and considering majoring in biochemistry, she said.

He was always very science-oriented and knew IU was a great research university, she said.

“We both kind of had a similar mindset about going to IU,” Haviland said.

Their father, Matt Davis, is a huge fan of IU, and it was both close enough to and far enough away from home, she said.

Haviland said Wilkerson’s academic prospects were exciting to her since she is a biology major.

Wilkerson used to tell Haviland he was going to cure cancer, something she said she fully believed he would be able to do.

She said the loss of their grandmother to stage IV lung cancer in April had a major effect on Wilkerson, who was very close to her.

“People always told me I was smart in high school, but I knew he was always so much smarter than me,” she said.

On campus, Haviland said Wilkerson was outgoing and quick to make friends like he did in Chi Alpha, a Christian fellowship organization.

She said he worked with several other men at retreats and on community service projects and loved it.

At home in Indianapolis, he ?had four younger brothers, Taylor Davis; Evan Davis; Ashton Davis and Luke Davis, one older brother, John Michael Wilkerson, and Haviland, his older sister.

Because John Michael lives in California, Wilkerson was the big brother of the house, Haviland said.

She said Taylor and Wilkerson, two years apart in age, were best friends and did everything together, sometimes even dressing similarly.

“I think Anthony looked up to Taylor just as much as Taylor looked up to Anthony,” Haviland said.

Haviland said she has a picture of Wilkerson and Taylor eating with their arms entwined.

“I love that picture,” she said. “I took it at O’Charley’s at dinner or something.”

It shows how close the two brothers really were, she said.

“That’s just his personality,” she said.

She said Wilkerson and his mother had a special bond as well, sometimes bursting into laughter when nobody else in the room even knew what was funny.

“I wish I could convey to you how crazy, goofy and hilarious this guy was,” she said.

Haviland said Wilkerson never stopped making people laugh and doing what he loved.

“One of his favorite things in the whole world was baseball,” Haviland said.

She said the family knew he would be great at baseball from a very young age because he used to pick up walnuts in his grandmother’s backyard and hit them across the lawn with sticks.

Haviland said Wilkerson played baseball for a few years when he was young and then all throughout high school on a team coached by his father.

At the wake, the team placed their jerseys in Wilkerson’s casket as a way to honor him, she said.

Wilkerson also played recreational softball with his father and mother, earning the name “Trips” not because he was clumsy, but because he earned three triples in his first game with the team.

“And it just kind of stuck,” she said, sharing a photo of Wilkerson wearing a purple jersey with “Trips” and the number four on the back.

Wilkerson’s death struck the family hard, Haviland said, happening just days before Thanksgiving.

“Honestly, it was empty,” she said of the holiday.

People offered a constant flow of support, including a friend of Haviland’s, Blake Kirkham, who started a GoFundMe account in Wilkerson’s honor, she said.

People who knew her and Wilkerson from Chi Alpha as well as friends and family from all over came to the wake and funeral during break to show how much they loved him, she said.

Haviland said going back to school the following Tuesday was hard.

She said a family friend got all of the family notebooks in which they could write down memories of or things they wanted to say to Wilkerson.

“I haven’t been able to do that yet,” she said.

She said she wanted to share more stories of Wilkerson and explain to people how much he was loved.

“I wish I had the words to express who Anthony was,” she said.

Haviland said she was told Wilkerson had carved his initials into the roof of Read while he was there, and she wants to see it.

It is another little piece of him still here on campus, she said.

“You really don’t know how much of your heart is made up of that other person,” Haviland said.

Haviland said Wilkerson was extremely loyal to his friends and family and that they had gotten much closer in the past year due to him being at IU.

Haviland said some guys get uncomfortable with saying “I love you” to their mother or sister over the phone when they’re with people, but Wilkerson said “I love you” no matter where he was.

“Every single time,” she said. “There’s no exception.”

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