GARDNERVILLE -- Family, students and teachers cried, laughed and shared stories Wednesday at a funeral service for Johnathan Lucas Wendling, the 18-year-old Douglas High School student who was killed last week in an experimental plane crash near Gardnerville.
More than 200 attended and paid their respects to Wendling at Carson Valley United Methodist Church in Gardnerville.
Those who knew Wendling said he was one to take chances and that he loved music, flying, playing practical jokes and who broke the barriers of social groups on campus by associating with everyone he met.
"He was the sparkplug in a family that was very reserved," said the Rev. Pete Nelson, who officiated the service. "At school, John was known by everyone. He wasn't just the kid in the band, he was the person who would try to keep the band organized and together."
Wendling liked to come in early and stay late and was one to help set up and break down and clean up when the band was finished playing, friends and teachers recalled.
Douglas student Amy McGough recalled how he loved gags and making people laugh, and often quoted lines from Monty Python movies.
"He would try anything to get us to laugh with him," McGough said. "And he would laugh at his own (jokes) and that would get other people laughing."
A member of the Douglas High School band, Wendling worked on songs, often practicing in the back yard of his home. Family members recalled how neighbors would come outside after he was finished playing and applaud him for his effort.
Besides band, Wendling was a member of the high school drama troupe "Kids on the Block," which traveled to elementary schools giving performances to teach children about being respectful with children who have disabilities.
Wendling used his cheerfulness and his sense of humor to let people know that every one deserves to be treated respectfully, his friends and teachers said.
He was fair and had a big heart, said drama teacher Robin Hearne.
"We would like to thank John for the quality performances he gave of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, she said. "It was a pleasure having him. He will be greatly missed.
Wendling was also known around school as the boy with the warm smile, his friends recalled.
"You see, John was one to level the divisions at school because he associated with everyone," Nelson said, addressing students. "And I say that as you go through school, you need to continue to level those divisions as he did."