COLUMBIA — Skyler Hinton, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, moved to Columbia in the fifth grade and found a close friend.
He lost that friend Saturday when Stuart Eiken died at the age of 17. Hinton met Eiken when the two played in the Columbia Youth Football League together where they posted a 32-1-1 record.
“Me and him have been best buds since fifth grade,” Hinton said. “We just had a lot of fun together. People who knew him, they would always say the same thing. He would always brighten up your day. You always saw him smiling. With him, there was never a dull moment.”
Eiken’s body was found hanging from a water pumping station on Burr Oak Road South at roughly 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning by a motorist.
Hinton learned of Eiken’s death before Rock Bridge’s football game against Helias High School on Saturday in Jefferson City. The players were warming up for the game when one of the players received a text message.
Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile told everyone what had happened when the team gathered in the locker room before the game.
“When it hit me, it was really a shock,” Hinton said. “I didn’t expect it at all. Some of the guys close to him were really affected by it. Some of the guys who weren’t as familiar, their mood dropped from hyped to somber. On the way home, after a loss, we would’ve said woulda, coulda, shoulda — things we could’ve done — but it was a really quiet trip.
“No one said a word.”
In memory of Eiken, the Bruins plan to place decals on their helmets for the rest of the season. Hinton plans to join teammates Kyle Willcoxon and Trey Warren in wearing Eiken’s number — 22 — for the rest of the season. The team is planning other ways to commemorate Eiken in the future.
As a junior, Eiken played running back for the Bruins, but he did not play on the team this year.
Students at Rock Bridge are also remembering Eiken. Some have made T-shirts in honor of him, and students have been signing and writing notes on a large banner.
“It’s just one of those things to show we’re thinking about you,” Hinton said. “No matter where we are, we’re still thinking about him.”
Eiken was born Dec. 9, 1991. He was a graduate of Columbia Catholic School and a senior at Rock Bridge.
Eiken is survived by his parents, Brad and Beth Eiken of Columbia; a sister, Maribeth Eiken of Columbia; grandparents, Donald Graessle of Jefferson City and Bernard and Jadine Eiken of Jefferson City; aunts and uncles, Dan and Dawn Eiken of Jefferson City, Donna and Simak Hagh of Shawnee, Kan., Jeanne and Ron Prenger of Springfield, Dale and Carol Graessle of Bedford, Mass., Ellen and Max DeShon of Overland Park, Kan., and Glen Graessle of Olathe, Kan.; and 10 cousins.
His grandmother, Mary Graessle, died earlier.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 903 Bernadette Drive, followed by a prayer service.
Services, conducted by the Rev. Joseph Shetler, will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the church. Burial will follow at Resurrection Cemetery, 3015 W. Truman Blvd., Jefferson City.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Stuart B. Eiken Memorial Scholarship Fund through Parker Funeral Service, 22 N. Tenth St., Columbia, MO 65201.
Condolences can be posted online at parkerfuneralservice.com.