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Clairton 2nd-graders honor late classmate

Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News - Connor Zink's mother, Jamie Grimenstein, clutches a stuffed animal as she and Connor's father, Jeremy Zink, react to Connor's second-grade classmates' comments at a flower garden dedication ceremony outside the elementary school entrance on Tuesday afternoon.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News</em></div>Connor Zink's mother, Jamie Grimenstein, clutches a stuffed animal as she and Connor's father, Jeremy Zink, react to Connor's  second-grade classmates' comments at a flower garden dedication ceremony outside the elementary school entrance on Tuesday afternoon.
CindyShegan Keeley | Daily News - Clairton City School District students and staff share a somber moment on Tuesday afternoon at the flower garden dedicated in memory of Connor Zink, a second-grader who was fatally struck by a vehicle in Jefferson Hills on Friday night.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>CindyShegan Keeley | Daily News</em></div>Clairton City School District students and staff share a somber moment on Tuesday afternoon at the flower garden dedicated in memory of Connor Zink, a second-grader who was fatally struck by a vehicle in Jefferson Hills on Friday night.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News - Family and friends of the late Connor Zink, a Clairton Elementary School second-grader, gather outside the school for a flower garden dedication on Tuesday afternoon. Students planted flowers and created a wooden cross in memory of the boy, who was fatally struck by a vehicle in Jefferson Hills Friday night.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News</em></div>Family and friends of the late Connor Zink, a Clairton Elementary School second-grader, gather outside the school for a flower garden dedication on Tuesday afternoon. Students planted flowers and created a wooden cross in memory of the boy, who was fatally struck by a vehicle in Jefferson Hills Friday night.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 5:21 a.m.
 

Connor Zink's second-grade classmates at Clairton Education Center remember the 8-year-old as a friendly boy with a competitive spirit who told funny jokes.

Those sentiments and more were on display at a flower garden dedication on Tuesday afternoon near the elementary school entrance along Waddell Avenue.

“He was my friend,” student Mason Suss said. “He would always share with people.”

“He was a very good friend. He liked to laugh and joke,” said classmate Tallen Leach. “When we were in gym, he always used to race.”

“I remember him being real competitive,” second-grader Max Carnegie said. “We would play tag a lot.”

Students and staff planted flowers on Monday in memory of Connor, who was fatally struck by a vehicle along the 1400 block of Gilmore Drive in Jefferson Hills just after 9 p.m. on Friday.

Clairton High School juniors Maya Pettiford and Rajanaya Summer crafted a wooden cross with angel wings and the phrase “We Love You Connor.”

Connor was playing on a skateboard outside his grandfather's house when he was hit. The youngster was transported to Jefferson Regional Medical Center where he died from his injuries.

Elementary principal Magi Berger said she received a call from Superintendent Wayde Killmeyer about the tragedy, and reached out to teachers and staff to come up with something to honor Connor.

“We decided that planting a garden in Connor's memory would be something that we could make lasting here at Clairton,” Berger said. “The second grade could take care of it in his honor and keep it growing ... We want to thank you all for being here and allowing us to participate and be a part of your family and friends today. We all send our deepest condolences.”

Connor's father, Jeremy Zink, and mother, Jamie Grimenstein, were among family members who attended the dedication.

“The flower bed is absolutely gorgeous,” Zink said. “It's amazing. I never expected this, and it deeply touches me that they did this for him. I couldn't be happier, and I know Connor is proud right now.”

Grimenstein said hundreds of people have reached out to the family offering condolences and showing their support.

“It brings a little bit of peace to my heart knowing he's touched so many lives,” Grimenstein said. “He was just so outgoing, willing to do and try anything and accomplish things. He loved a little bit of everything, from riding bikes to skateboarding to dirt bike riding, wanting to build a tree house. He just had a say in everything ... It's things like this that really make you think and come together to be there for each other.”

“We're getting through this through everybody else,” Zink said. “Everybody has shown an unbelievable amount of support toward us. Strangers are reaching out to us, and it means a lot. It just shows how many lives my son has touched. The family is just deeply grateful for this.”

Zink has a message for all parents.

“I just want people to go home and hug their kids,” he said. “That's important. I took Connor's life for granted, thinking this could never happen to him, and I just want people to go home and hug their kids.”

Grimenstein said she had her son's organs donated so, in death, he could help other children.

The funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at A.J. Bekavac Funeral Home, 555 Fifth St., Clairton. Interment will be in Round Hill Cemetery in Elizabeth Township.

The family suggests memorial donations to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation at the Cold Cow Ice Cream Store in Century III Mall because Connor loved to play with toy cars and trucks.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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