Academics were the farthest thing from the minds of many Litchfield High School students Monday, as they came together to grieve the loss of one of their classmates.
Marcus Huhn, a 16-year-old junior, was driving a Ford Focus east of Litchfield at about 9:25 a.m. Sunday when he drifted off the road and struck a field approach in the 24000 block of County Road 9. He was taken to Meeker Memorial Hospital where he died from injuries sustained in the crash.
Huhn’s funeral is planned for 2:30 p.m. Friday at the high school gymnasium. Visitation will begin at 1:30 p.m. School will end early Friday to allow students to attend. The School of St. Philip, where Huhn attended as an elementary student and his mother, Heather Bednarek, formerly taught, also plans to end classes early Friday.
At the high school, students were allowed to miss classes Monday and could visit with Bednarek and other family members who spent part of the day in the school’s library.
Many juniors wore camouflage Monday in Huhn’s memory, giving a nod to both Huhn’s preference in dress and interest in hunting.
Students such as junior Kristina Christopherson said Huhn had close ties with his classmates and teachers.
“It’s really quiet in the hallways. There’s a lot of laughter in the library,” said Christopherson, who met Huhn her freshman year after moving to Litchfield. “But there’s also a lot of tears. It goes from laughing about a story to crying. I think a lot of people are taking it really well, and I think a lot of people aren’t.”
Some of Huhn’s closest friends described him as having a personality that people gravitated towards.
“You can hear his laugh from a mile away,” junior Kayla Liestman said. “It was just so contagious.”
Junior Emily Kieffer said Huhn was determined both academically and athletically. “He did whatever he put his mind to,” she said.
But winning wasn’t everything to Huhn, junior Carter Wattenhofer added. Huhn relished simply spending time with his friends on the court and baseball field. “He just wanted to be involved,” Wattenhofer said.
To head basketball coach John Carlson, Huhn was a team player who put his all into every game.
“The things that stand out in my mind: There’d be a loose ball on the floor, most kids will look at it like at the like ‘eh…’ and he would just dive on it. It was just a different mindset,” Carlson said.
He added, “I actually gave him a nickname: ‘The Wild Animal.’ ‘The Wild Animal’ was a term of endearment, and the kids knew that, and he knew that. That was how he played the game.”
Jeff Wollin, head varsity baseball coach at Litchfield, also described Huhn as a determined and motivated player.
“Even if I got after him about something, or he had a bad game, or I had to remind him about something over again, he’d always come back the next day like it hadn’t happened, like he just started over. You couldn’t keep him down,” Wollin said. “He loved to play and he was always back the (next) day to try it again. I think just his love of the game and enthusiasm to play will be what I remember at this point.”
Poster boards hung in school hallways Monday for students to write a note to Huhn and his family or mention a memory.
Students continue to share their memories of Huhn outside of school through group chats and on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #hugsforhuhns.
Employees at McDonald’s, where Huhn worked, were also struggling Monday with news of Huhn’s death. They set up a memorial for Huhn at the service counter.
“I thought of him like my own child,” said Alice Lister, a former McDonald's employee, who added that their conversations and time working together had brought them closer.
“Every time he’d come in it’d be, ‘Hi, mom,’ give me a big hug and have that smile on his face,” Lister said, explaining that other McDonald’s employees also called her mom.
School officials took a moment to remember Huhn at Monday’s board meeting.
“He enjoyed everything from Dragonaires to duck hunting, from baseball to basketball. He had a lot of interests and was really well liked. He could relate to a lot of kids,” Litchfield High School Principal Jason Michels said.
Marcus’s mom Bednarek could not be reached for comment.
— Sports editor Louie Opatz contributed to this story.