Editor's note: Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series. The second will be published Monday, April 23.
Dale Steffey’s eyes well-up when he mentions anything involving his late son.
His tears fill up around his eyes – just enough to not drop onto his cheek. Sleepless nights can be seen on his and his wife’s faces. Dawn Adams describes how it isn’t the same going to sleep at night. It’s harder to do now – now that their son is gone.
Friday marks the one-month anniversary when Wade Steffey’s body was found.
After the death of their son Wade, Dale Steffey’s cousin died of a heart attack in Michigan while playing golf. Steffey and Adams had planned to go to an art fair to sell their works of stained glass. But now, instead of traveling to the art show, they are going to yet another funeral. On the way back from the funeral, Steffey and Adams plan on making a stop at Purdue to get their son’s belongings and return them home to Bloomington.
“We feel like we’re working through a lot of things, but we go backwards and have to work through them again,” Dawn Adams said. “I don’t think it’s as good as we’d like it to be, but I think we’re still working on it.”
On Jan. 13, Wade Steffey went missing after attending a fraternity party on Purdue University’s campus in West Lafayette. He was reported missing three days later. In an outcry of support, many friends, family, students and citizens from Tippecanoe and Monroe counties came to assist during mass searches around Lafayette and on Purdue’s campus.
The emotional roller coaster that many rode during these searches could be seen on the faces of volunteers. They all had one goal in mind – to find a missing 19-year-old son and fellow student.
When Wade’s body was found March 19 in a high-voltage utility closet, it was surprising to many. His electrocution was ruled accidental after it was discovered he was trying to recover a jacket he left inside a dorm. The high-voltage utility closet door he entered was unlocked and not labeled as dangerous.
“We kept saying, ‘Somebody has to know something.’ Nobody knew, ever,” Adams said.
While standing in Wade’s bedroom in his parents’ Bloomington home, his full-size bed is still neatly made with white sheets.
A “Donnie Darko” movie poster with a slogan saying “revenge is a dish best served cold” was taken down by Dale Steffey. He feels it was not a positive way to think during this time. Instead, in its place hangs a memorial photo of Wade.
Adams explains how she would like to repaint the room a nicer color. She jokingly admits she never really liked the blue color Wade picked and painted himself. The paint looked thrown on, but purposefully.
Adams said she is comforted by speaking with Wade in her mind. The Steffeys recently returned from a trip to Florida, a break from the tragedy of their son. While sitting on the beach and looking at the clouds with her husband – a newfound interest to relieve their stress – Adams saw something in the distance. She followed the object, which eventually was floating on the water.
“I kept on thinking, gosh, there’s a balloon or something floating out there. And then I was distracted, and the next thing I know right there on my feet is a Spider-Man balloon.
“I believe he (Wade) sent us that balloon letting us know that he knows we’re there, he knows we’re working on ourselves. He wasn’t a big Spider-Man fan, but sometimes you have to use what is available!”
Adams tied the balloon to the chair that she believes was a sign from her son – a sign that will eventually prove that through all this pain and suffering, the Steffey family will, in the end, get through this together.
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