Through the Eyes of a Friend, Meet Nikki LaDue

Sometimes, the best way to get to know a person is to ask their best friend. I did that of Jennifer Hecker Guenter. Read her touching remembrance of her high school friend, Nikki LaDue. And remember, this is the girl we are fighting for.
  • I am not sure how much you know about the town that Nik and I grew up in or the atmosphere for that matter.  Angelica was and still is a very very small town and everybody knew everyone and  the statement, “it takes a village to raise a child” holds true.  We all went to one school  holding all grades K-12.  Seniors ate lunch with Kindergartners, Freshman were spared hazing because high school began in 7th grade, and most of all, everybody thrown together forced us to like one another and care for one another.  Of course there were cliques and  petty infighting but for the most part, we were one big family.

    If you graduated from ACS  and were lucky enough to go to college, the only goal was to get the Hell out of Angelica.  Even if it was only an hour away, you succeeded, you “made it.”  (Soon, you realize how much that town is embedded in your soul and its safety and warmth tugs at you everyday.)  Nikki was three years younger than me but it didn’t matter, our school was so small that it was like one big class.  I hung out with Nikki in chorus, band, ski club, cheerleading, soccer , etc.  We all hung out together…7th thru 12th grade girls all crossed paths and did things together.  I do remember that Nikki’s parents were very strict and her mom, Bonnie, was very apprehensive in letting Nik run around with us older girls.

    Anyway, Nikki….

    If you were to say, “Give me a quick list of words to describe Nikki.” This is what I would shout:

    -small town
    -one of a kind
    -friend to all

    Nikki with high school friend Jennifer

    I pulled out my yearbooks because I knew Nik had signed them.  It brought tears to my eyes when I read them and I am so lucky to have a piece of her.  In 1986, I was a Junior and Nikki was an 8th grader.
    Nikki’s exact words:

    “Jennifer – Hi Sweethart 🙂
     Boy – I can’t believe I survived another  boring year at A.C.S!!  It wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been 🙂  I’m so glad we became good friends this year! 🙂 you’re such a honey 🙂  Hopefully next year we’ll become better friends- and go out and such 🙂 It’ll be great 🙂  I can’t believe I’m a FRESHMAN now!  Really weird 🙂 Well running out of room!  I love ya like a sis,

    Nikki was a phenomenal piano player and often broke out into some song and we would all join in.  Nikki always had a smile and I really can’t remember a time that she wasn’t happy.  Nikki was the girl that would be there to cheer you up.  Nikki and I were kindred spirits because we both had terrible skin as teenagers and we were harassed constantly.  I was devastated by the teasing but Nikki never flinched.  She’d laugh it off and drag me down the hall…lol.

    I won’t even beat around the bush on Nik and cheerleading.  Nik was a HORRIBLE cheerleader!  She was all arms and legs and didn’t know what end was up!  However, she tried harder than anyone and she never gave up.  I heard years later that by her Senior year she was damn good at cheering 🙂

    Nikki also had a habit of calling people DUDE.  Girls, guys, teachers…she called everyone dude.  It used to
    drive me crazy but it was Nikki, she was comfortable in her skin and comfortable in any crowd.

    Nikki was also a dork…in the best sense of the word.  She would combine the craziest clothes together and not think twice about it.    She would also do just about anything on a dare.  I loved that about her because I was and still am the same way.  We kinda just “got” each other.

    If I recall, I think Nik was living in Buffalo when I was finishing up college. (I could be wrong)  She would call me out of the blue, wherever I was and I never knew how she tracked me down.  We would talk and talk and then I wouldn’t hear from her for another year.  I remember her calling me and saying she was working at a casino.  I really think it was 1998 or 1999.  She told me she was the blackjack girl but did other games and that she really enjoyed it.  I never pictured her in that kind of setting .  Nikki was so outgoing and smart and beautiful.  I really thought she would be a journalist or newscaster, she just had that appeal.

    I didn’t hear from Nikki after the final call in 1998, maybe 1999.  I remember the call I received about her death.  I remember right where I was and I remember dropping to the floor in disbelief.  Suicide?  NEVER and NO WAY!!  Not Nikki, not ever, I don’t care how bad it got she was raised in the church and she loved life and she loved her baby and she would  NEVER break her parent’s heart like that.  I remember finding my way to my dining room table with the phone.  I needed to call my best friend from high school that was even closer to Nikki than me because they played piano together.  When Susan answered the phone and through choking tears and sobs I told her that Nikki was dead.  I heard a gasp, silence and then together we cried.  In fact, tears are streaming down my face now.  Things like this don’t happen to us small town girls.  We are all good girls.  We all did what we were told.  We all had our goals and our dreams and we all achieved them.  Nikki was no different.  Nikki was murdered.  Nikki was taken from all of us and the hole in our hearts will never be filled.  We have to find her killer, we have to make things right.  We HAVE to do this because Nikki would be the first one to step up and do this for us.


Posted on November 15, 2011, in Cold Cases, Crime, Murder, Nikki LaDue January and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I loved this. Thank you Jen. You are a GOOD TRUE friend.

  2. Oh, the memories…Nikki was such a vivid presence in our lives it’s still sometimes hard to believe she is gone.

    Jen, when you used the word dork to describe her I laughed and was reminded of how crazy she used to make me…after the dress code loosened and you guys were allowed to wear shorts to school, Nikki thought that was the best thing since new sneakers. She paid no regard to the fact it was 20 degrees and snowing…nope…she’d bound down the stairs decked out like she was on her way to a picnic in the park and look shocked when I’d ask her if she’d lost her mind. Off she’d go in her slouch socks, sneakers and shorts, grabbing a light weight jacket ‘just in case’ and hop on the bus.

    On the flip side…she loved getting new clothes in preparation for a new school year and again was oblivious to the weather…sometimes it was still summer warm after Labor Day but Nik wanted to show off her new sweater or boots and would layer up in her new duds like she was expecting a winter blast before the end of the day!

    And do you remember that mean, green machine that I think she called the ‘Hulk’? It was a ’79 Chevy something-or-other that her Dad bought for her in her senior year…homemade ugly, but she was in her glory with her OWN wheels. I can’t even count the number of times we paid to get that thing out of the impound lot up in Buffalo because Nikki believed ‘NO PARKING’ signs were for other people, not her…over and over again she got tickets and had her car towed because when she needed to park and there wasn’t a legal spot, she’d convince herself that certainly it would be ok this time. To this day, when her Dad sees a ‘NO PARKING’ sign, he’ll say…”look, Nikki’s spot”!

    So bittersweet to reflect on the sparkle that was Nikki…her absence is a blank, dark place in our hearts and missing her will always be an indescribable ache….r.i.p. beautiful daughter..I’d give anything for one more day with you.

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