Nicholas E. Stepaniak, age 31, passed away Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013.
Nick, the assistant communications manager for Stafford County’s Emergency Communications Center, was an invaluable member of a select fraternity. He began his career in Myrtle Beach, S.C., catching the “bug” that we all call dispatching. He moved to the Fredericksburg, Va., area to be closer to family and soon became a dedicated and well respected member of a close-knit team. Nick was the consummate professional, always looking for ways to improve his skills and abilities while helping others to learn and perfect theirs. In 2010, Nick was honored by the Virginia Chapter of APCO as its Training Officer of the Year and was later selected as APCO International’s Communications Training Officer of the Year.
As training officer for Stafford County, Nick developed an outstanding program while continuing to share his knowledge and expertise with others. When the Regional Training Academy’s Dispatcher Program needed an overhaul, Nick participated in that process. His training program has been shared with colleagues in Virginia and across the country. It serves as a foundation for many agencies in the development and success of those who choose to enter the career of a public safety communications officer.
Nick fought a long and courageous battle with cancer from which he succumbed to sooner than he or anyone expected. He never complained. He was always here. Up until the last month, he never took a day off because he didn’t feel well.
His wife, Brandy, so strong and stalwart was a rock in Nick’s life. With his strong support, she completed her education to become a Registered Nurse. With that skill and knowledge, she was able to provide the care he needed and so richly deserved; care delivered by the best RN. To see them together was to see and know two people who had a genuine love and respect for each other. Nick’s parents and two sisters can be very proud of their son and brother; an individual who was an example to everyone he came in contact with. A gentle man with a big heart, a strong desire to do the best job he could while continuing to grow and develop both personally and professionally.
He left a positive impact on anyone he came in contact with. His can-do attitude was one that I have never seen and never expect to witness again. On Nick’s worse days, during chemotherapy in 2006 up until his death, he faced his health challenges head on. Rarely missing a day from work, he reported at times with a sock to warm his head and offered to provide a head sock to share the experience with co-workers on the midnight shift. Following major surgery this past December, Nick recovered quickly and reported back to work in just a couple of weeks.
Maintaining his optimism through adversity Nick learned on Tuesday that his fight was unexpectedly being lost. While hoping for a miracle, his family, co-workers and the PSAP community showered Nick with thoughts and prayers, pictures, memories, accolades and all that could be done. The training center utilized by the 9-1-1 Center has been named the “Nick E. Stepaniak Communications Training Center.” (A formal dedication will occur at a future date.) He knew about this recognition and, in usual humble fashion, felt it was just too much. There was nothing we wouldn’t or couldn’t do to insure Nick knew how much he was loved, respected, appreciated, admired, and treasured both professionally and personally. The impact Nick has left here in Stafford was what you would expect to see from the greatest of men. He was, in the eyes of his public safety family, the most dedicated and hardworking individual. Always contributing. Always moving forward. Always wanting to help others. Always wanting to do more.
Nick loved life and was a man of great character who was driven by the desire to represent the profession he loved so much while serving the citizens of Stafford County. Please keep his wife Brandy, his parents, his sisters, family and those in Stafford’s ECC in your thoughts and prayers.
Stafford ECC staff will be wearing black ribbons until the day after Nick’s funeral. We invite you to join us. Further communication will follow with arrangements.
Carol W. Adams, Director, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, Division of Emergency Communications