Village mourns loss of man killed breaking up fight

Wild described as adventurous with a zest for life

Feb. 8, 2012

Brown Deer - Hundreds of Shaun Wild's friends turned out to honor his life and memory, praying, singing and holding flickering candles as they walked around the track at Brown Deer High School on Saturday evening.

"It's almost like Shaun planned it," his father Bruce said, a smile on his face but his eyes brimming with tears as he spoke to a reporter Tuesday. "He would have said go up to the football field."

A standout athlete and member of the National Honor Society at the high school, the 2006 graduate was stabbed to death in a Naperville, Ill., bar early Saturday morning after he tried to intervene in an escalating war of words between Willie Hayes and Daniel Olaska. Wild and Hayes were teammates on the North Central College football team before Shaun's graduation last spring.

Shaun had stopped by the bar to join a friend after a function at nearby North Central and noticed tension building at a table where Hayes and Olaska were seated. Hayes and Olaska did not know each other previously.

Hayes and an employee of Frankie's Blue Room were also stabbed. The employee was treated and released from a hospital, while Hayes remains in the hospital after undergoing surgery for his injuries.

News of Shaun's death, from text messages, phone calls and emails, spread through two communities as a gray, cold dawn broke Saturday morning.

And in both places, at North Central College where Shaun was the punter for the football team and the president of the Student Leaders Association of Teacher Educators, and in Brown Deer where Shaun and his family have lived for decades, his friends gathered to remember him.

Wanted to be role model

He came home for a visit the weekend before he died, finding and sharing with his parents a posting on the North Central website. In the post he wrote his reasons for wanting to be a teacher, hoping to be a male role model and provide the guidance for his students that he received from middle and high school teachers in Brown Deer.

"He was an angry young man in middle school," Bruce said. "Teachers like Dave Lucre and other middle school teachers really helped him turn that around."

Turn it around he did. He was a star athlete and student but he also loved to sing in the high school choir and solo ensemble. He loved an adventure and, along with high school classmate Stephanie Cybela, tried out for American Idol a few years ago. Neither made it, but they had fun doing it, his parents said.

He loved a challenge and he loved kids. After being hired in August 2011 for his first teaching job, second grade at Spring Brook Elementary School, he was excited to accept the challenge of having conjoined twins in his classroom.

"His principal told me he said, 'That's awesome,' when he found out they would be in his class," Bruce recalled.

Shaun wanted the twins to be included in all classroom activities. One of his happiest moments, his mother Jami said, was when another student in the classroom carefully positioned himself in a dodge ball game so that first one and then the other twin could hit him with a ball.

"He tried to facilitate normalcy for them," Jami said.

In recent months, inspired by his girlfriend, Esther McCarty, whose parents are missionaries in the Philippines, Shaun began attending church again on a regular basis.

"He was reading the Bible daily and his goal was to complete it in a year," Jami said.

Enthusiasm for life

His gift, Bruce said, was his ability to bring people together and share his zest and enthusiasm for life and its adventures.

"Whether he was getting a group together to go to the Brewers or whatever, he made everybody excited," Bruce said.

He was proud of his Irish heritage and planned to have a Celtic cross tattooed on his back. His brother Kevin plans to do that in his honor.

The Wild family has been moved and touched by the outpouring of love and kindness from the community.

"Starting with the (Brown Deer) police officers, everyone has been wonderful," Jami said. "The officers spent two or three hours with us making sure we were OK."

The officers notified the Wilds of Shaun's death and then made sure they did not attempt to drive themselves to Illinois. They helped facilitate the notification of their daughter, Shannon, who was spending the weekend in Minneapolis.

Ellen Schneider Gaffrey, who baby-sat for the family, created a Facebook page, In Memory of Shaun Wild. Her friend Kevin Cahill, whose family lives up the street from the Wilds, helped. All over the village women are cooking and baking. Donations for a scholarship fund are rolling in.

The family had a brush with what could have been a tragedy one night in December 1999 when they were overcome by carbon monoxide gas while sleeping.

The concentration of the gas was so strong that two officers who ran into the house to help the family were overcome.

"There are not a lot of scientific reasons that we survived that CO incident," Jami said. "Bruce and I always told our family that God gave us a do-over, and we live our lives to honor that gift. We celebrate that anniversary every year. I am able to say the peace I have now is because we had 12 great years as a family and because of what Shaun was able to accomplish and how he touched people."

An 'epic' fundraiser

Two groups plan to sell commemorative bracelets to raise money for a scholarship that is being established in Shaun's name for students who want to be teachers. One bracelet will say "Accentuate the positive," which exemplifies Shaun's life.

The second bracelet reads "Be epic."

"Whenever Shaun was planning something, he would say "It will be epic," Bruce explained.

The family wants justice for their son, but they also recall how he rose above life's challenges and disappointments.

"I am going to try to get over my anger," Bruce said. "He would expect that from me. There is nothing be gained from it."

At a Glance

WHAT: public memorial for Shaun Wild

WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 9 with visitation beginning at 5 p.m.

WHERE: Brown Deer High School, 8060 N. 60th St.

WHAT: funeral mass

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Feb. 10

WHERE: Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church, 7152 N. 41st St., Milwaukee

Burial will follow immediately at Resurrection Cemetery, 91st and Donges Bay Lane in Mequon.


In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Shaun Wild Educational Scholarship Fund. Donations may be sent to the fund, c/o Brown Deer High, 8060 N. 60th St., Brown Deer, 53223.

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