Farewell to a friend

Friends, family give Wade Steffey a final goodbye


Aaron Bernstein

Dale Steffey set the tone to his son’s funeral Monday morning at Evangelical Community Church, 503 S. High St.

“This morning’s season is one of celebration and mourning,” he said at a press conference prior to his son’s funeral service.

Dale Steffey’s son, Wade Steffey, who went missing for more than two months, was found dead in a high-voltage utility closet March 19 at Purdue University. His electrocution was ruled accidental after it was discovered he was trying to recover his jacket left inside a dorm. The high-voltage utility closet door in which he entered was unlocked and not labeled as dangerous.

“Your heart can only be broken if you’re willing to love, and your heart can only be mended if you’re willing to love again,” Dale Steffey said at the press conference.

The service began with Rabbi Mira Wasserman from the Congregation Beth Shalom. Wasserman described moments of Steffey’s childhood, which included earning his black belt in tae kwon do, running for his cross-country team at Bloomington High School South and earning his Eagle Scout badge.

“For all his gifts,” Wasserman said, “perhaps his greatest distinction was of his friendship.”

Ben Frohman, Jonas Schrodt and Ben Schrodt were among the friends that contributed to the funeral. Jonas Schrodt performed Willie Nelson’s version of the traditional folksong “He Was a Friend of Mine” and Ben Schrodt read a poem.

Frohman recalled traditions in small African villages where people sing to celebrate a birth and said he wanted to celebrate Wade Steffey’s life. His words, mixed with his tears and emotion, had the several hundred people in attendance crying with the sound of sniffles and gasps of breath. Once he finished, Dawn Adams, Wade Steffey’s mother, and Dale Steffey gave an emotional hug to a crying Frohman who was looking into the eyes of Adams.

“I wanted to ask the young people to take Wade with them into their future,” Adams said. “Their future is a gift and I hope his memory allows them not to be afraid to reach out for their dreams.”

Dale Steffey said it was not too early to think about his son’s legacy. He said that his son’s once local story exploded into a national discussion about the safety of young adults not protected by the Amber Alert.

Wade Steffey’s parents were referring to legislation that is currently in the Indiana Senate that would set parameters on Indiana State Police and other organizations to find missing adults. They have expressed that while their experience with Purdue University Police was good, other families of missing adults have not had the same positive experience. Dale Steffey asserted how important it was for families of missing persons to have the cooperation of police and media together.

“Those two institutions are probably the most vital ally a family of a missing person can have in the immediate aftermath,” he said, “because you have to have the police aware of the level of concern and you have to have the media get the story out as quickly as possible.”

The Steffeys said they hope to set up a “Wade Steffey Foundation” to give scholarships, train police and aid campuses with missing person cases. The foundation originated from the “Wade Steffey Reward Fund” that was set up to help find Wade Steffey while he

was missing.

Wade Steffey, 19, was a national merit scholar from Bloomington. He was reported missing by his roommate after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Search efforts were unsuccessful in the weeks following his disappearance.

Dale Steffey said he and his family will start planting trees in remembrance of Wade.

“We’ve been able to let go the fear, let go the denial, let go the bargaining,” Dale Steffey said. “Grief and anger remain, but that is for another season.”

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