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Josh Reif, 17 -- Crushed Under Automobile

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Josh Reif had the kind of smile that made others smile in return - and it’s one of the things his many friends say they will miss most about him.

The 17-year-old Waukesha West High School senior, son of John and Mary Reif, died Tuesday night at Children’s Hospital, Wauwatosa, where he had been taken after the car he was trying to remove from the back of a tow truck fell on him at his place of employment in Brookfield.

"He was always smiling," said Logan Dralle, a West junior, one of about 25 friends and classmates who gathered at the Reif home Wednesday night to share their memories of Josh.

"He could always make you laugh," Sam Reese, a West senior said. Reese’s comment brought a round of smiles and chuckles as each of Reif’s friends remembered a time when Josh did just that for them.

He was also the kind of kid who, on his own birthday, treated his friends to dinner and ice cream afterwards, several said.

The driveway leading to the Reif home was full of pickup trucks and the living room floor was covered with dozens of pairs of teenagers’ shoes as friends dropped by Wednesday night.

Mary Reif said about 50 of her son’s friends had spent some time at the home, where many of them had gathered in the good times, times of pizzas and bonfires in the yard.

"The kids all hung out here, and today it was amazing how many came over," she said Wednesday night. "The living room and basement were packed and there wasn’t an inch left in the house that wasn’t filled with Josh’s friends.

"I think having them all here has helped us tremendously," she said. "We’re numb, but they are helping."

Reif excelled at automotive mechanics, and when asked how many of his friends had their cars worked on by him, a forest of hands shot up.

"Josh fixed my truck," Reese said. "He fixed it a lot."

On Halloween, Reif worked on Kayla Schlei’s car.

"He let me drive his truck around to do errands while he fixed mine," she said.

Schlei, a senior at Waukesha South High School, has another tender memory of Josh’s thoughtfulness - one captured in glossy color - a photo of them taken May 21 at the West High School prom.

"He wore pink to match my dress," she said, passing around the picture of a broadly smiling Reif, looking dashing in a dark suit and raspberry pink vest and tie, and Schlei in a long, pink gown.

Reif was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed "big boy toys like four-wheelers and mud," said Jim Clark, who graduated from West last year but was a buddy of Reif for the past several years.

"He was always getting his truck stuck in the mud," Clark said.

In a phone interview, Zach Olson, who met Reif about 10 years ago when they were neighbors, said he loved dirt bikes, fishing and hunting.

"Josh was an all-around great guy," he said.

Tom Sacharski, game bird manager at Wern Valley Hunting Club, where Reif and his father were members, said the young man sometimes helped out at the pheasant-hunting club during the summer months.

"He was a nice, good kid," Sacharski said. "He and his Dad had a great time hunting here together."

One of Reif’s ambitions was to be an auto mechanic, Zach Olson said.

"He really knew his car stuff," Olson said. "He’d be rattling off all this stuff about cars and I’d have to ask him to stop and explain it to me," he said with a laugh.

Reif, who planned on attending Waukesha County Technical College to study auto repair, worked for the past nine months at Dennis’ Service Center in Brookfield.

"I talked to him on the phone Sunday night," Olson said. "We just talked guy stuff and then we each said, ‘Take it easy and see you later.’"



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