OGDEN -- Whitnie Dutt took the final step that her mother could not. The 13-year-old stood in at the Stevens-Henager College graduation ceremony Thursday night to accept her mother's diploma.
"She was amazing," Whitnie said of her mother. "It would have been amazing if she were here to get her diploma, but I get to do it for her now, and it's a memory that I'll always cherish."
Melissa Bolster, 36, died unexpectedly Jan. 28. The mother of three developed a blood clot from a knee injury she suffered in a fall.
Before her death, Bolster earned an associate of occupational studies degree in medical specialties and was planning to continue her education in the nursing field.
"I wanted a copy of her diploma, so I called the school. I just wanted something, whether it was the diploma or a copy of the program," said Bolster's mother, Darlene Petersen, of Brigham City.
"They told me they had her on the program and that she had graduated with honors. They asked me if I would like to come and accept it for her, but I just didn't think I could do it. Losing a child is the hardest thing I have ever lived through."
Petersen thought it would be an honor for one of Bolster's children to accept the diploma, and Whitnie consented. On Thursday evening, she sat on the stand at the Dee Events Center and waited for her mother's name to be called among the 275 graduates.
"I helped her through school and thought it would be good if I got it for her," Whitnie said. "I am really touched to be able to do it."
Petersen said Whitnie has been strong through the death of her mother. She even spoke at mother's funeral.
"It was a beautiful talk," Petersen said. "I wrapped it up and put it in her mother's hands at the funeral."
Petersen said her daughter never complained and always went the extra mile for others.
"She was always a giving, loving person. If she had $2 and you needed $1.50, she gave it to you," Petersen said. "She was a wonderful mother. She lived for her children, and I mean that. She lived for them."
Doug Burch, dean of students at Stevens-Henager, said Bolster was a top student and very much a leader in her class.
"She was the type of person who would organize study groups and support her classmates," he said.
"She had big goals for herself and her children. Earning a medical specialties degree was just the first step. Her ultimate goal was to become a registered nurse."
And she would have been a good one, said her mother.
"She was kind. She was caring. She was loving. She took care of my mother the last two years of her life, and I know they are together right now," Petersen said.
"We have received so much feedback from people who say they were honored to have known her. This means a lot to us. If each of us could have a part of her, it would be a better world."
To support the family and honor Bolster's dedication to education, Stevens-Henager presented her three children, Caulin 17, Whitnie and Trevor, 11, with full scholarships for an associate degree at the college should they choose to attend.