South Eugene

'I find great solace in knowing he is in God's hands'

'I find great solace in knowing he is in God's hands'
Connor Ausland

EUGENE, Ore. - Connor Ausland dancing.

Connor Ausland dribbling a basketball

Connor Ausland sinking a 3-point shot like whitewater over a rock.

Connor Ausland alive.

Family videos shared Connor's life with memorial participants at Temple Beth Israel, including a contingent of South Eugene High School classmates who marched silently from campus to the service under skies promising rain.

Other students watched the video celebrations of Connor's life on a screen in the school's auditorium.

One moment, Connor Ausland and Jack Harnsongkram were two of Eugene's most promising young men. They were already delivering on that promise as participants in South Eugene's Mr. Axemen pageant. The program challenges young men to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network.

Then Feb. 4, 2011, at a retreat with other Mr. Axeman participants on the Oregon Coast, a sneaker wave snatched the two young men.

Eugene erupted in purple, South Eugene's school colors, as those who knew Connor and Jack mourned their loss - and those who had never met them felt robbed of the opportunity to meet people of such quality.

'My tears dry up and my stomach hurts from laughing so hard'

Friends and family who spoke Monday said not a day went by that Connor didn't know he was loved by his mom Kathy and his dad Greg.

"My heart is broken. I don't understand why this has happened," said Connor's mom, Kathy Ausland. "But I do believe that it's for a higher purpose, and I find great solace in knowing he is in God's hands."

Connor's sister and brother talked about how much fun they had growing up with Connor as their little brother.

"Every time I sink into a sad place," said Chelsea Ausland, Connor's sister, "I'm just moments away from another funny story about my brother. My tears dry up and my stomach hurts from laughing so hard. An example would be Connor and his best friend Cole taking their shirts off for a flex-a-thon to fully demonstrate their emergence from awkward to dreamboat status."

Connor's best friend Cole Weinhold says Connor wasn't your typical 18-year-old.

Yes, Connor loved to play basketball and dance. He was also Justin Bieber's biggest fan.

His friends Emma and Amos performed Bieber's hit song "Pray."

And there were a lot of prayers going out for Connor to keep his spirit of love and acceptance alive.