Nik Wallenda’s parents are Terry Troffer and Delilah Wallenda. His mother and father play a huge role in his high-wire walks. Delilah, a high-wire walker herself, has walked on the same wire as Wallenda in some stunts. As for Terry, also a former high-wire walker, he serves as the safety coordinator for Wallenda’s stunts, and talks to Wallenda through an ear-piece while he performs.
To the Today Show in 2013, Troffer talked about what type of role he played in his son’s stunts, and why it’s so important for them to communicate while Wallenda walks. “We communicate back and forth,” he said. “If he’s got a question, I try to look for the answer for him right away.”
When asked how important it was to have his father in his ear while he walked, Wallenda said, “It’s very important, because he can talk to me about pacing…the fact that if I do speed up or slow down…so that I don’t create rhythms in that cable. And really, [he’s] a voice of reason.”
Wallenda is married with three children. On March 4, he will attempt to walk over a volcano, in what many are saying is his most death-defying stunt yet. You can get info on how to watch it without cable here.
Here’s what you need to know about his parents, Terry and Delilah Troffer:
1. Wallenda’s Father, Terry Troffer, Taught Him How to Walk on the Wire
Wallenda’s father, Terry Troffer, was the one who taught him to walk the wire as a child. Troffer has remained intimately involved in his son’s high-wire stunts, and helped him plan a number of the stunts featured on Nik Wallenda: Beyond Niagra.
Troffer has often served as a safety coordinator for Wallenda’s stunts. In the first episode of Beyond Niagra, Troffer passed out from heat and stress before a stunt, and Delilah had to fill in.
Before Wallenda walked across the Grand Canyon, Troffer spoke with the Today Show about his son’s stunts. “I’m really not that worried,” he said. “I know his capabilities. I’ve been through it. I walked the wire for 38 years, so I kind of know what’s going through his mind.”
2. The Wallenda Tradition of High-Wire Walking Comes From Wallenda’s Mother’s Side of the Family
Delilah Wallenda is Wallenda’s mother. It’s her side of the family that boasts a tradition of high-wire stunts, which is likely why Wallenda took his mother’s maiden name for his own last name.
According to a profile of the Wallenda family by ABC, a number of Wallenda family members walk the wire: Wallenda’s uncle, Tino; Wallenda’s grandmother, Jenny; and Delilah, herself. All of Wallenda’s siblings have also walked the wire, though they don’t do it professionally.
The Wallendas represent seven generation of high-wire walkers, ABC reports. Wallenda can trace his family lineage all the way back to the 1700s, when his family was a traveling circus troupe in Europe.
3. Terry Has Said in the Past That His Son’s Stunts Make Him ‘Concerned’ For His Safety
Though Terry Troffer most often says that he has supreme faith in his son’s abilities, he will occasionally admit having a small bit of concern for the danger inherent in the stunts — and as the safety coordinator, he does have the right to pull the plug if he deems the conditions are unsafe.
“Right before he goes, I’m going to check with all of our different departments,” he said. “I’m going to check into weather conditions…if we have storms that might develop, I want to know how far away the lightning strikes are.”
Troffer said he also talks to his son to see how he’s doing. “It’s just a matter of doing a countdown-type of thing,” he said. “You know, just checking in.”
4. Delilah’s Grandfather, Karl Wallenda, Died Doing a High-Wire Walk
WARNING: in the video above, you can see the broadcast in which Karl Wallenda, Delilah’s grandfather and Wallenda’s great-grandfather, fell to his death from a high wire in 1978.
Wallenda has talked about how his great-grandfather, arguably the most famous Wallenda family member after him, impacted his decision to become a high-wire walker. To ABC, he said, “He just didn’t have the strength to hold on. If he had the strength, if it was 20 years before, he’d be alive to this day.”
Wallenda remains convinced that his great-grandfather wouldn’t regret the way he died. “At seven generations, just because we’ve had some tragedy, we’re not going to give up that easily,” he said. “I know that he is up there and he’s very, very proud.”
Wallenda’s death wasn’t the first incident of tragedy that befell the family from their stunts. In 1962, Wallenda and six others participated in a human pyramid of high-wire walkers, which included multiple family members. The formation collapsed.
The Herald Tribune wrote of the tragedy,
Dead in the wreckage below was nephew Dieter Schepp and son-in-law Dick Faughnan. Adopted son Mario would ride a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Instantly-widowed daughter Jenny called her dad a murderer for allowing Dieter, the ostensible weak link, to walk the line that day.
Karl said to the newspaper in 1970 that this incident haunted him, and was now the central reason for why he never looked down. “There is a picture in my mind of the ring down there . . . and the boys,” he said. “They are broken and still, and around them there are the balance poles and bars and the chair . . . just pieces. That picture is in my mind and I never lose it. If I look down once I know I will see it again . . . those boys. If I look I go mad. I don’t look.”
5. Delilah & Wallenda Have Done a High-Wire Walk Together in the Past
Wallenda and his mother, Delilah, have done a number of stunts together, even walking on the same high wire at the same time as one another.
Wallenda often posts about his mother on Instagram. In December, he wrote, “You are an inspiration to us all! I love you Mom, Happy Birthday!”