HCHS mourns loss of student-athlete

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2005

AHOSKIE – RonGina Wilder was a fighter until the very end.

The 17-year-old Hertford County High School athlete fought bravely, but succumbed Monday night to injuries sustained in a Friday automobile accident.

Her coaches, her friends and all who knew her are remembering her this week as the type of person and athlete that all should strive to be and also are pointing to her heart and desire on the basketball court and in life.

&uot;I’m going to remember RonGina as a fighter,&uot; HCHS basketball coach Joan McCullough said. &uot;She was a fighter. In some of the losses we’ve taken in the past two years, she never quit. When we were playing Rocky Mount and Brunswick, she was out there fighting like we were down by two when we were down by 20.

&uot;Her continued fight on the floor allowed me to continue fighting in the coach’s box,&uot; she added.

McCullough said that fight was the reason most of Wilder’s teammates believed she would make it through the myriad of injuries she suffered.

&uot;They are taking it very hard,&uot; McCullough said. &uot;They didn’t want to believe it. They know she has been the fighter for all of us and they thought she would fight through it.

&uot;When it became obvious that she couldn’t fight anymore, they all came here and just were together,&uot; she added. &uot;RonGina never knew she was a leader, but they knew she was their leader. They knew she was our heart and soul.&uot;

While she was a leader on the basketball court, Wilder was also an outstanding student and person. Those traits are the ones that stuck out to HCHS Athletic Director Charles Simmons.

&uot;The way I’ll remember her is as a quite, peaceful, outstanding young lady that carried herself extremely well,&uot; Simmons said. &uot;She was a very good student, very conscientious.

&uot;She was one of few juniors in high school that knew for sure what she wanted to do,&uot; he added. &uot;She knew she wanted to play college basketball and was working hard to achieve that goal.&uot;

Simmons said that his heart went out to her family.

&uot;I’ve lost people in my family, but to lose a child is different,&uot; he said. &uot;My heart goes out to them.&uot;

Both Simmons and McCullough cited Wilder’s love for the game of basketball.

&uot;She is one of the few players that I can say loved the game of basketball as much as I do,&uot; McCullough said. &uot;Personally, I feel like I’ve lost a child. The task of going on that basketball court next year without her seems right now an insurmountable task.&uot;

McCullough said before every game as the Lady Bears broke the huddle, Wilder would come to her, give her a fist-pound and hug and ask if she was ready.

&uot;That is a memory that is etched in my head forever and will always be in my heart,&uot; the coach insisted. &uot;She’s one of a kind.&uot;

Wilder’s loss was felt by the entirety of the Hertford County Public School District.

Superintendent of Schools Dennis M. Deloatch said the district was grieving.

&uot;Obviously, we are heart-broken,&uot; Deloatch said. &uot;We lost a student-athlete that was stellar in both regards. She was a good student, a good basketball player and a good person.

&uot;The tragedy touches us in many ways,&uot; he continued. &uot;Ron and Mary (Wilder’s parents) are both employees of our district, so we mourn with them as well.&uot;

Hertford County High School’s students and staff are dealing with the loss of one of its bright stars.

&uot;Our students and staff had an extremely difficult day yesterday (Tuesday),&uot; Principal Larry J. Cooper said. &uot;When you lose the life of such a fine young lady in a situation like this, it’s simply tragic.&uot;

During the past year, Wilder worked at the Little Panda Chinese Restaurant in Ahoskie. Raymond Ng, owner of Little Panda, remembered Wilder as a good person who he will miss dearly.

&uot;RonGina possessed all the qualities that every young person should have and had all the qualities that a business owner looks for,&uot; Ng said. &uot;She was very punctual, very honest and a very responsible worker.

&uot;She was pleasant to the customers and to her co-workers,&uot; he continued. &uot;She was a treasure to my business. Her loss leaves some mighty big shoes to fill.&uot;

That tragedy struck while HCHS softball coach Rick Heckler and his team were preparing for a game and awaiting Wilder’s arrival.

&uot;It’s been hard for the team,&uot; Heckler said. &uot;It was such a shock when it happened. We were waiting for her to show up and then we got the phone call and everyone went into complete shock.

&uot;Everyone’s first thought was that this couldn’t be happening and then they all wanted to do something,&uot; Heckler added. &uot;We immediately went to the hospital to support RonGina and her parents and we prayed and tried to do whatever we could.&uot;

Heckler said that his memories of Wilder would be etched in his mind.

&uot;She was a very quiet, hard-working young lady,&uot; he said. &uot;Though I didn’t have her in class, I would assume she worked just as hard in the classroom.&uot;

The coach said softball allowed him to see a lighter side of Wilder as she was willing to joke and laugh more than in basketball.

&uot;In basketball, she was very intense,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s what it takes to be a good defensive player and anyone who saw her knew she had that intensity.

&uot;In softball, she was more willing to joke and try to get a laugh,&uot; he added. &uot;She wasn’t as strong in softball, but she was willing to work and to try to improve.&uot;

Her leadership skills and ability to work hard are the types of attributes younger players should emulate, according to McCullough.

&uot;If anyone knew the type of player she was, that is the type of player they should aspire to be,&uot; the coach said. &uot;If they knew her as a person, that is the type of person they should aspire to be. I was her coach, but I admired her.&uot;

Wilder will be remembered for her heart and desire, according to McCullough.

&uot;She had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever coached and in some ways the biggest heart I’ve ever known,&uot; she said.

That heart extended to Wilder’s family, according to the coach.

&uot;Her family never, ever missed a home basketball game that RonGina played in,&uot; McCullough said. &uot;When I think about the tough times our team went through, they were always there supporting us. Now, we’ll be there to support them.&uot;

During her basketball career, Wilder was named to the All-Tournament team at the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic and was twice named to the All-Roanoke-Chowan Basketball Team. She was chosen Best Defensive Player as a junior for the 2004-2005 season.

She leaves behind her parents, Ronald and Mary Wilder, and a biological mother, Wanda Monroe.

Funeral services will be at 12 noon, Saturday, April 30 at the Hertford County High School gymnasium with Minister Shelia White officiating.