WATSEKA — The laugh. The grin. The hard worker. A friend to all.
Those who knew him say those only scratch the surface of 16-year-old Bryce Denoyer, a Watseka High School sophomore who died Thursday from the injuries he sustained Feb. 14 in a one-vehicle crash on an Iroquois County road.
Kevin and Daniell Denoyer’s son lived a full life in his short time on this planet.
So much so his family’s decision to donate his organs will keep a part of Bryce alive.
“On Thursday night, his dad, Kevin, told me [Bryce] wouldn’t want me to cry and said he would be saving five to eight lives being an organ donor,” said Shawn Farris, one of Denoyer’s longtime friends and football teammates at Watseka.
“When he told me this, it made me think. Bryce was a man who would give to us when we wanted and gave to anyone when they needed. You’d be lucky to have the heart of Bryce Denoyer.”
The 5 foot, 10 inch, 225-pound Denoyer played running back and nose guard for the Warriors.
“It was an odd combination, but Bryce was quick,” football coach Aaron Hilgendorf said Friday. “Unless opponents would double-team him when he played defense, he would be in their backfield making the tackle.”
Bryce also played basketball, ran track and was a member of the school’s show choir.
Hilgendorf’s two sons were big fans of Bryce.
“They would come to the high school after they got out,” he said. “I was still teaching, and Bryce would be at the door and let them in the building. He talked to them and hung out with them.”
Bryce had many friends, young and old, Hilgendorf said.
“Bryce was full of life,” he said. “He accepted everybody. He bridged the gap. That says a lot about him. He had friends that were out of high school and in elementary school.”
Another one of Bryce’s teammates and friends, Ethan LaBelle, said, “You never had to question if he ever had your back or not. I’ve been friends with him for many, many years, and every day spent with him was one to remember.
“He was always positive and uplifting. He made every negative situation into a positive one with just his presence. He always had that laugh and grin that made you forget everything and just laugh.”
Hilgendorf said Bryce wanted to be great, and he worked hard. He enjoyed being coached.
Reece Nasers, another friend and teammates, saw it first-hand.
“Bryce was the type of guy that if you tell him he can’t do something, he would tell you no way and come back the next day doing it,” Nasers said. “Bryce is a fighter and always will be.”
On Thursday night, Hilgendorf said they opened the school’s gym for those who wanted to come to talk and remember Bryce.
“Bryce will hold a special place in my heart,” Hilgerndorf said. “He will be remembered for his infectious smile and for how much he loved his family and teammates. Our hope is we can live a life that honors his life.”