Remembering Nikki Bascom

Family members look back through the years, telling stories to create a portrait of a Silver City nurse

By: - September 21, 2021 6:00 am

When Nikki Bascom graduated from nursing school, she was called on stage to receive a pin. “She walked up there and she got so embarrassed, because she had that dress with the little mini straps,” her mother Karri Dalton said. “He went to put it on her and she’s trying to help him find a little spot to put it. That picture just captures her innocence, and just her.” (Photo courtesy of Karri Dalton)

Not long after a 17-year-old Nikki Bascom gave birth to her son, someone gave her a letter.

It was about how the mothers of disabled children are chosen by God and given extraordinary skills to raise them.

“That was Nikki,” said her mother Karri Dalton, who found the letter in a box at her home in Silver City, framed it and hung it on her own wall.

(Image courtesy of Karri Dalton)

Karri said Nikki became a nurse because of her child. He was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, Dalton said, which blinded him and affected his hormones.

His first year of life was a barrage of tests, doctors and hospital visits, Dalton said, until Nikki found a doctor in Albuquerque who helped her regulate his condition with daily shots, medication, measuring and lots of caretaking.

“She went into this profession to help her son. That’s where she started but she did not quit there,” Karri said. “She went on from just a regular certified nurse, just continued her education. 

Nikki would become the nursing director at Hidalgo Medical Services in nearby Lordsburg, N.M. 

“She was still continuing her education when she passed. She was this far away from being a nurse practitioner. And I don’t believe she would have quit even there.”

Beyond the tragedy

Nikki died five years ago, killed by a former partner who was also a Silver City Police Department captain. 

Her case is helping establish legal precedent in six states. It put police on notice that it’s illegal to turn a blind eye to domestic violence when the abuser is a fellow officer. 

Source New Mexico covered those aspects of the story — the legality, the testimony, qualified immunity — in “Appeals Court: Silver City PD brushed its own domestic violence policy aside,” (Aug. 31, 2021).

This week, we’re hearing from two family members who can talk about who Nikki Bascom was beyond this tragedy, as a nurse, a mom, a sister, a friend and a person. 

Three kinds of people

Karri said many people think there are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers.

She thinks there are three: People who show up when you call them, people who never show up, and people you don’t even have to call, like Nikki.

“If she saw that my yard was looking pretty scungy, she’d be over the next day with the lawnmower and the weedeater and out there herself,” Karri said. “She heard in my voice when I called her or something after work, that I didn’t sound just right, she would just come over. She was that kind of person. You didn’t even have to call. So she was just an exceptional human being and is missed dearly. It was devastating to lose her.”

When she was raising Nikki and her brother Jory Bascom, they would take walks, and she would make them walk around a tree and thank nature.

“I grew up with them,” she said, out on a beautiful piece of land right up against the Gomez Peak in the Gila National Forest.

Nikki brought home every stray dog she found, Karri said, and had probably 300 cats over time, an aquarium and a pair of cockatiels, who had many hatchlings.

Anything she touched, flourished. That’s how she was. That’s how she is, still. She still touches us that way.

– Karri Dalton

When Nikki was in first grade, Karri said there was a little girl in her class who got picked on by other children.

“It was kind of sad,” she remembered. But on a field trip, everyone had to choose a partner, and Nikki just walked up to the girl and took her hand. “She always would reach out that hand to the less fortunate, or whoever needed it at that time,” Karri said. “She was there.”

Jory said his big sister liked the outdoors, especially driving four-wheelers and camping. Nikki was ambitious, too. “She set the bar for grades at home,” he recalled. “My mom used to pay us for As and Bs. Cs were nothing, just As or Bs. And Nikki always cleaned house on the As. It made me want to do better. She inspired me to work harder.”

Karri agreed her daughter influenced everyone around her. “She held everybody, all of us, accountable all the time,” she said. “She gave you a desire like, I hated doing laundry. It was my worst, you know? But she would help me.”

Jory was in the Marine Corps for four years. He fought in Iraq, and while he was there, he would always get letters from Nikki along with drawings by her son.

“If I ever was having a hard time, she was the first one I’d call,” Jory said. “She was always on my side. She would always help me to see the way out. She was inspiring, and she was a rock, and irreplaceable.”

‘No way to prepare’

Since Nikki died, members of her family have been in counseling, Karri said, which has been very needed.

“I had to kind of just take a lot of time to myself,” she said. “Just being with the kids, with my son and his children. I just had to like, kind of step back a little bit and take a lot of time.”

She said she has tried to get involved with domestic violence programs in the area, but mainly she has found comfort in staying close to family.

When Nikki died in 2016, Jory was still an officer at the Silver City Police Department, where the man who killed her had also worked. Jory said the vast majority of police try their best. Jory resigned in September 2019 after being a police officer for six years. That allowed him to take some time to help his wife and kids, and volunteer at their school.

“You realize that when things like this happen, it’s not set on a calendar, and there’s no way to prepare for the loss of your sister or a mother,” Jory said.

For me, it’s helped me to not take that for granted, the days that we have, especially with my children. To think about how quick something like this can happen. And to just love a little harder.

– Jory Bascom

Grief can be consuming, and many people are going through it. Karri offered these words: 

“This is going to be the longest journey you’ve ever walked through, and it’s never gonna end. There was never a morning when I did not just want to stay in bed.” But taking care of her grandchildren, who were also grieving, really helped, she added. “Me having to get up every morning and having to take care and loving these kids. What I would like to tell people is if you’ll just keep getting up every day and keep working through it, it doesn’t really get better, but you do realize that there are still beautiful things out there, and beautiful people.”

During a family trip to Purgatory, Colo., Nikki Bascom ended up in the middle of a group photo. “Actually she was the center of our family,” her mother Karri Dalton said. “Everyone depended on Nikki and called her for advice. She would call to check up on them. She would stop whatever she was doing — and Nikki was a very busy woman — but she would stop in a heartbeat to help any of our family members or even anybody else. So many people that we heard from after this happened, we don’t even know, but she had affected them in some way. Her soul touched, and could have touched, countless people that we don’t even know.” (Photo courtesy of Karri Dalton)

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.