Service will be Wednesday Time will be set

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MINDEN -- He lived at the airport and in the Douglas High School bandroom. His passions were music, family and flying.

For Jonathan Lucas Wendling, whose parents gave him the middle name Lucas -- meaning "light" -- his tragic death in an airplane crash Tuesday came at a time where the 18-year-old let his idealism soar.

"He was our light. He had so much personality in him, and I always wondered why because we're more reserved," said his mother, Karen Wendling, from their Saratoga Springs home Thursday. "Everywhere he went, he was talking to people. Didn't matter who it was, Jon just liked people."

Authorities are piecing together the events that led up to the death of Wendling and Carson City pilot Charles Kenneth Collings, 36, after the pair took off Tuesday afternoon for a pleasure ride around Lake Tahoe. Students and teachers were in shock upon learning of Jonathan's death.

The airplane was discovered Wednesday afternoon after being reported missing.

"I feel a piece of us died along with Jon," said Bill Zabelsky, Douglas High School band director. "He's one of those kids that when you meet him, you never forget him. A very vibrant young man. We can't believe he's gone."

Jonathan is survived by his parents, brothers Jeffery, 26, who is in the U.S. Army in Tennessee, and Patrick, 21, a student at University of Nevada, Reno.

Wendling was a member of the school band, and played trumpet. Zabelsky recalled how Jonathan worked tirelessly with his instrument, and played the Star Spangled Banner recently at a girls' basketball game.

"Jon was one of those kids you'll always remember. Always smiling, always cheerful and always wanting to help," Zabelsky said.

The mood was somber Thursday at Douglas High School, where students and teachers decorated a memorial with flowers and pictures in Jonathan's band room locker.

"It's not a pretty day. He was a wonderful, energetic student who touched many people, not only students, but adults, too. He will certainly be missed," Douglas Principal Charles Condron said.

Condron remembers Jonathan playing the Star Spangled Banner on his trumpet before the girls' basketball game.

"You could tell he was nervous but, when he had a goal, he put in the time and effort to make it work," Condron said. "We have a lot of grieving students and staff today. They're all now understanding how much Jon meant to them."

Karen Wendling remembers her son practicing the National Anthem for hours this summer. She recalled how one day, he was out in the yard, and she heard him playing it, perfectly, from inside her kitchen.

"It was the sweetest sound I had ever heard," she said. "It was one of those calm days outside where you couldn't hear traffic or anything else.

"I heard him play and I couldn't believe it. Every note was perfect. As I walked outside, there was a neighbor standing outside listening. She must have heard, too. She clapped and said 'way to go' when he was finished."

Jonathan's father, Mike Wendling, remembers one day telling his son to stop playing the National Anthem.

"I was on the couch, and I heard him playing it for I don't know how many times in the past few weeks. So I go over to him and say, "I wish you'd stop playing that. I have to stand up every time you do."

Like his older brother Patrick, Jonathan also enjoyed working on cars with his dad.

In the Wendling's garage is a 1952 MG the father and son had recently been doing body and engine work on.

Mike recalls how a couple months ago his son gave him a a tape by singer-songwriter Enya and how they worked on the car together in the garage, listening to the tape.

"One day he said, 'Dad, you gotta listen to this' and he put it in and we worked and listened," Mike said. "A few weeks ago, he and I were at the DMV, and we wanted to get personalized license plates. I said, 'What should we call it?' He said, '"Only Time," like the Enya song.'"

The license plates read: "Only Tym."

Music was only one of Jonathan's passions. He expressed an interest in theater and media production and worked behind the scenes in school plays. He told his parents recently that he wanted to be a cameraman for a television news network.

"He was always one to want to be involved behind the scenes," his mom said. "He told me that it's more interesting than being out front of everyone. He said the real drama is what's behind the curtain."

As owner of Chaparral Avionics in Minden, Mike said his three boys grew up around airports.

Jonathan worked part-time after school for Mansberger Aircraft at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. There, he helped buff planes and did an assortment of odd jobs and was always looking for a chance to fly.

Working at the airport, Jonathan was always eager to fly and it's not uncommon that pilots ask if someone would like to fly along.

"It's not a big deal because we know a lot of the pilots and we've always trusted them and I know Jonathan trusted them," his mother said.

While speculating, the Wendlings said Collings likely asked if Jonathan wanted to go for a ride and Jonathan probably enthusiastically accepted.

"Flying was in him. He loved to go up whenever he could," Mike said.

Services for Jonathan will be Wednesday with a time to be announced.


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