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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 31 2012

West Fargo senior who died following brain aneurysm to get honorary diploma

WEST FARGO – Death took Eleni Wilson from her friends and family, but it could not erase what she had already accomplished.

Wilson, a West Fargo High School senior who died in October at age 17 after

being stricken by a brain aneurysm, will receive an honorary diploma Sunday when her class graduates during a 2 p.m. ceremony at the Scheels Arena in south Fargo.

“She earned it. She worked very, very hard. She actually had college courses done,” said her mother, Maria Wilson.

Eleni was a straight-A student who managed two outlets of her mother’s Santa Lucia restaurants.

“An amazing kid. She was brought up the hard way. You want something? You have to work for it,” Maria Wilson said.

Bestowing the diploma honors her daughter’s name and memory, she added. “It’s something that needed to be finished. A final step.”

Eleni Wilson suffered the aneurysm during a break from rehearsals for a school play. She died Oct. 26.

High School Principal Cory Steiner said honorary diplomas have been given by the school in the past for students on track to graduate. When the senior class was informed, they seemed “happy and thankful” that the tradition would continue, he said.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t ignore,” Steiner said. “In some way, you have to provide some closure for Eleni, her family and friends and classmates.”

Maria Wilson said the seat that would have been Eleni’s will be kept open. The diploma will be bestowed during Eleni’s alphabetical turn. It will be accepted by Spencer VanGuilder, another senior, who had been Eleni’s boyfriend.

Maria Wilson said she’s still not sure if she will attend the ceremony. That will be a last-minute decision because she worries about keeping her emotions in check.

“She (Eleni) was one of those people that never liked people to be upset. She liked people to be happy,” Maria Wilson said.

But she also wants to see her daughter get credit for her hard work in life.

“It’s something that was hers. We need to follow through with that.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583