Connor Wienke made sure people knew how he felt about them.
Whether it was a smile, a friendly comment or helping his friends and family when they needed him, the 2018 Heritage High School graduate was never shy about making others feel loved and appreciated.
Wienke died due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on Aug. 28, 2022.
Friend Braden Pridemore, knew Wienke since birth.
“One interesting thing my mom told me was that both her and Connor’s mom were in the hospital at the same time while in labor,” Pridemore said.
Wienke was born May 31, 1999 and Pridemore was born June 1, 1999.
“She said she and Tammy, Connor’s mom, were walking the halls together and that Connor and I were in the nursery at the same time.”
The two became close friends after Pridemore’s junior year of college.
“He was always the guy who would give you a hard time and mess with you but was also the first one to tell you how important you were to him,” Pridemore said. “He had a contagious laugh that is something I’ll probably miss the most.”
Heritage Superintendent Tom Davis said the Wienke family is deeply ingrained in the history of the district.
Connor’s dad, Kevin, was a school board member and his mom was an athletic booster. His sisters, Erin and Taylor, played volleyball and his uncle, Brad Dalton, was the the coach.
“They were great athletes and Connor, as the younger brother, grew into one also,” Davis said. “He was an award-winning baseball and basketball player.”
Current Heritage High School Principal and basketball coach Corey White said he would remember two things about Wienke; his confidence and his willingness to sacrifice.
“Connor was one of the best shooters on our team and he could shoot with range as well,” White said. “Even the best shooters will miss a couple of shots, get frustrated and hesitate to shoot again for fear of missing. Connor was not that way.”
White said Wienke always had the mindset that he would make his next shot.
“I wish more kids had his confidence,” White said.
White said Wienke was also willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team. In a game where the team was down by two, a teammate made a 3-pointer, White said. The Hawks took the lead in the game.
“As everyone is celebrating running down the court, the other team inbounded the ball and was trying to push the ball up the floor,” White said. “They tried to pass the ball to a player that was running up the floor. Connor laid himself out to tip the ball out of bounds to make sure to stop their fast break. I swear his body was parallel to the floor when he jumped to tip the pass. The play allowed us to set up our defense and we ended up getting a stop to secure the win.”
White said he knew Wienke’s determination and willingness to put others first would lead him to success.
“I knew these two characteristics were going to lead Connor to be successful in life as well as touch so many other people’s lives,” White said. “His confidence and willingness to sacrifice are attributes I believe everyone should have.”
Davis said Wienke, who worked on the Wienke family farm, also showed an interest in FFA.
“Which wasn’t surprising with the family’s strong agricultural and farming ties which dates back decades in the Homer area,” Davis said.
Davis said Wienke was also a good student and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southern Illinois University.
“What I will remember most is that he was a liked and respected classmate and friend to many,” Davis said. “Many staff members are devastated, which also speaks to what they thought of him.”
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