Brief Lives : At Mass, a Fountain and Plaque Honor 2 Children Who Died Violently
Jenifer Nelson, 10, and Amy Kiel, 10, haven’t seen their friend Nicole Parker for two years, but they still have happy memories of playing tag and just hanging out with the pretty, vivacious girl.
Now Jenifer, Amy and all of Nicole’s classmates at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School will have something to inspire memories for years to come.
On Monday morning, at the adjacent church on Ventura Boulevard, family and friends gathered to remember 8-year-old Nicole, whose abduction and murder by 23-year-old Hooman Ashkan Panah rocked the Valley in November, 1993. Priests and school administrators held a Mass in her honor, and in memory of 12-year-old Javier De Vivero, another student at the school, who died in an auto accident in 1983.
Afterward, the priests dedicated a fountain outside the fifth-grade classroom to Nicole, and rededicated a shade tree with a new plaque to Javier. Monday was the second anniversary of Nicole’s death.
The fountain is a four-foot-high bronze sculpture of a pony-tailed girl holding aloft a conch shell, from which water spurts. Nicole’s parents chose the statue from among those available because of its resemblance to their daughter.
As Father Carl Markelz praised Nicole and blessed the fountain, young girls in the audience began to sob.
“It makes me remember her,” said Jenifer, sober-faced. “She always was nice to me and I really liked her. She was really nice and loving.”
A red-eyed Sandy Murphy, a friend of Nicole’s mother, smiled as she looked at the fountain.
“It’s the essence of who she was, because she gave so much,” Murphy said. “She was an extraordinarily giving child.”
In his sermon, Father Gerald Wilkerson said that a tree and a fountain are fitting memorials to the two children because one is a symbol of life and the other contains life-nourishing water.
“They have finished all their lessons,” Wilkerson said. “But now Nicole and Javier are teachers. They teach us to grow in love, that what is important is what is growing in our hearts.”
Among those attending the service were Nicole’s mother, Lori Parker-Gladstein, and father, Ed Parker; their sons, Travis, Chad and Casey; Parker-Gladstein’s husband, Martin Gladstein; and Joel Price, the former LAPD detective who was so disturbed by his experience on Nicole’s case that he left the homicide unit.
Those who came to commemorate Javier were his parents, Gonzalo and Virginia De Vivero, his brother, Luis, and his sister, Marisa.
The entire school attended the ceremony. In the modern marble and stained-glass church, the voices of the many children drowned out those of adults, giving a formal, children’s choir sound to the hymns, a sound poignant and plaintive. At one point during the Mass, Nicole’s now-divorced mother and father picked the same moment to lean forward in their pew, their heads in their hands.
Parker-Gladstein said the event helped her transcend her sorrow over her daughter’s death.
“After two years of only thinking about her death, this brings the spirit of her alive,” she said.
Wanting to keep their daughter’s memory alive, Nicole’s mother, father and stepfather approached the school with the idea of building the fountain, and school officials liked it. Parker-Gladstein and her husband also had a plaque made for Javier.
Nicole’s father said that although the fountain dedication helped, coping with his daughter’s death is still difficult.
“I just kind of take one step at a time,” he said. “It’s been a very difficult two years for me personally.”