LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (THELIVINGSTONPARISHNEWS)- FRENCH SETTLEMENT — Hard-working. Kind. A mentor. Dedicated. A hero.
Those were just some of the words family members and friends used to describe Lt. Vickie Wax, a lifelong resident of French Settlement and law enforcement veteran who died in the line of duty in 2004.
The French Settlement community gathered for a memorial parade and ceremony in Wax’s honor on Saturday, Aug. 22.
The day-long program was organized by Angela Eastridge, a French Settlement resident who said she wanted to do something in response to “all the negativity toward law enforcement.” Tensions for law enforcement were reawakened this year following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee.
Eastridge, who passed out gifts to Wax’s surviving family members during the ceremony, said she hoped the program would show the community “what a true hero really is.”
“I wanted the children in the community to realize what a true hero is, and Lt. Vickie Salassi Wax was definitely a true hero,” Eastridge said.
Wax served in the Baton Rouge Police Department for 27 years before she was shot and killed with her own service weapon while attempting to handcuff a shoplifting suspect on May 22, 2004. She was working extra detail at Walmart on the evening of her death.
A graduate of French Settlement High and Southeastern Louisiana University, Wax was 51 years old when she passed, leaving behind a husband, a father, two brothers, a sister, two nephews, numerous other relatives, and “an endless number of fellow law enforcement officers,” according to her obituary. She was laid to rest in Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery.
Wax received a hero’s farewell in the immediate aftermath of her passing, with citizens and law enforcement paying tribute during a procession that traveled from Baton Rouge to Livingston Parish to a ceremony attended by hundreds.
More than 16 years after her passing, people came together again to celebrate a person many said is still “loved by all.”
The parade began at the Moonlight Inn before traveling south on La. Hwy. 16 to the Creole House Museum. Dozens of floats and vehicles participated in the procession, with many decorated in colors of black and blue or adorned with banners displaying Wax’s name.
In a trailer near the front of the parade rode some of Wax’s surviving family members, who wore matching T-shirts and a pin with a picture of Wax.
Kiley Salassi, Wax’s nephew, said he and his family were touched by the support the community showed them after his aunt’s passing and during the memorial parade and ceremony in August. Salassi referred to Wax as “my mentor” and said a day doesn’t go by when he doesn’t think of her.
“It’s just very humbling to see everybody show their support, and on the behalf of the family I just want to thank the community, law enforcement, both prior and current law enforcement, for their support,” Salassi said.
Other family members and friends shared their memories of Wax. Marieanne Curte, a cousin, described her as someone “who everyone loved.” Wanda Groscot, a close family friend, said Wax “loved kids” and was saving up to open her own daycare after retiring from law enforcement.
Her sister, Bonnie, said she thinks of her sister “every day.”
“I miss her,” Bonnie said.
Several people spoke during the ceremony, including Rev. Jason Palermo, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, BRPD Chief Murphy Paul, French Settlement Police Chief Michael Rhoads, and former Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade, who was Wax’s chief at the time of her passing.
Getting choked up at several points during his speech, Englade said he and Wax grew close during their years in service together, recalling the constant overtime shifts Wax signed up for.
“She had a goal to retire early,” Engalde recalled. “She saved every penny she had, and she was set to retire the next year.”
Englade said he was “devastated” at her passing and that it ultimately led to his retirement a few months later. He thanked the organizers of the program for the chance to remember his “good friend.”
“She was probably the hardest working police officer I’ve ever known,” Englade said.
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