COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – It was halftime of a basketball game between North Idaho College and Salish Kootenai College, but it’s not the game that’s important; it’s the halftime ceremony honoring Coeur d’Alene tribal member and former Salish Kootenai basketball player Tim Wolfe. He would have been playing in that game, as he did last year, but a drive-by shooting in May 2008 took the life of this remarkable young man.
“I was thinking what it meant to have Tim Wolfe represent us,” Coeur d’Alene Vice Chairman Ernie Stensgar told the crowd. “He came from our home town and we knew who he was and what he did through his life. He wanted to do something with his life so he went to college and the whole community was so proud of him. He was my hero because he was a role model for my kids and I hope they aspire to be like him.”
His funeral was held last spring in a gymnasium, about 1,000 people attended, almost unheard of in a small community. “He had a lot of potential, a great smile, a great personality. He was loved by everybody. The community is saddened,” said Tribal Chairman Chief James Allen.
The halftime remembrance ceremony was put together by the NIC American Indian Student Alliance and the coaching staff. The Rose Creek Drummers did an Honor Song before Stensgar spoke of Tim Wolfe and what a remarkable young man he was. Tim Clark, AISA vice president and longtime friend of Wolfe’s, spearheaded efforts to contact the family and get Wolfe’s picture and jersey to display. That jersey, No. 21, had been retired by SKC at an earlier ceremony. The coaching staff contacted the Shooting Star Dancers, a dance group from the reservation, and they performed in honor of Wolfe.
Clark also contacted Warpath Trading Post, which donated two Pendleton blankets. Those were presented at halftime, one to Wolfe’s mother, Charlotte Nilson, and the other to Wolfe’s longtime girlfriend, Tia Sines and their small daughter Kyleigh. Wolfe’s family presented a blanket to Sonny Eppinette, the only returning player from last year’s team at SKC.
Wolfe lettered in three sports during his high school career in Plummer, Idaho and played in football and basketball All-star games. He was a major contributor at SKC last year when they won the national American Indian Higher Education Consortium tournament championship in March. “Tim was a good sportsman who would compliment opposing players when they did something well,” said Zach Camel, SKC head coach. “He always had kind words to say to everyone. Tim had off the charts athletic ability and boundless energy.”
NIC coach Jared Phay had similar comments. “During the game last year there was some trash talking going on and Wolfe told his own teammates to stop and just play the game.” Wolfe had attended NIC his freshman year and was well-known to the coaches even though he chose not to play that year. “At a funeral, good comments are always made but in Tim’s case it was all true.”
“Tim was remarkable, inspirational,” Nilson said. “He was definitely my hero. It was just a blessing to be his mother. The basketball court was his domain; it was where he lived. It was appropriate that we had his funeral on the basketball court. I joked that it was probably where he did most of his praying. He was very respectful. He was always a peace maker, even in our family.
“He was only 21 years old but most of his life he was the alpha male and his brothers and sisters looked to him. I looked to him for advice. As a mother I would text him and get advice from him. He was an amazing kid.”
His mother is doing well which she attributes to the support of the community. There was representation at his funeral from many tribes throughout Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana. “His ancestors would be proud of him because he traveled his aboriginal territory and was a well-rounded, respected, fun-loving kid. It was easy to be a parent,” Nilson said.
The family has no animosity to the person who committed the shooting. “It’s part of our faith as we believe in our Creator,” she said. “Knowing where he’s going on his path and where he’s at just gives a sense of peace.”