PHOTO STORY: Dirt bike procession rolls through downtown Niles in honor of fallen motocross rider
NILES – The number “643” was on display in Niles Thursday evening as a Niles man was remembered with a special motocross honor ride.
Conrad Jacob Stilwell, whose motocross number was “643,” died Sunday, June 27, after suffering a heart attack the day before. Stillwell was 25 years old.
Just after 6 p.m. on Thursday evening, a hearse from Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services turned south on Front Street from Wayne Street in Niles. Behind the hearse came the buzz and rumble of around 150 motocross bikes. Many riders donned their motocross jerseys, and others put on the number “643” for Stilwell. Many riders popped wheelies and raised one arm up as they rode together by the skate park in tribute. Two Mustangs did burnouts in front of the skatepark, after leaving some room between their vehicles and the dirt bikes. The procession ended at the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
Steve Wickens, funeral director and owner at Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services, has led Honor Rides before, but this was his first with dirt bikes.
The ride through downtown Niles was a tribute organized by family and friends who shared the love of motocross with Stilwell.
“He was a quiet kid, but he loved making people laugh. He was the center of attention all the time,” said Taylor Davis, Stilwell’s cousin and most recent roommate.
According to Stilwell’s obituary on the Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services website, Stilwell was a fourth-year apprentice with the Ironworkers Local 292 of South Bend. Motocross was his passion.
“Conrad started riding motocross when he was 9 years old and over the years has collected numerous trophies and winnings,” the obituary said.
Davis said Stillwell would travel for motocross when he could. As recently as March, Stilwell rode in Redbull’s Day in the Dirt Motocross Grand Prix at Dade City Motocross in central Florida.
“It was always a passion for him. He put a lot of effort into riding and being able to ride. It was the one thing he loved to do,” Davis said. “He was still racing pretty actively.”
Stilwell had a brand-new bike, that Davis said his brother rode in the honor ride.
“He just loved the community [of motocross] and the people were always there to help him,” Davis said. “He was always there for them. He liked the family aspect of racing.”
David remembered Stilwell as being an outdoorsman.
“[He] loved fishing, loved hunting, he loved to be doing something all the time,” Davis said.
Though he could be quiet, Davis said Stilwell was often the center of attention because he loved to make others laugh.
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