Vermilion student killed in Iraq

By Tom Coombe

A Vermilion Community College student who made his mark both on the college campus as well as the Ely community was killed last week while on military duty in Iraq.<BR><BR>Bert Hoyer, 23, died Wednesday when an improvised explosive device hit his convoy in Baqubah, north of Baghdad.<BR><BR>A specialist in a Wisconsin-based Army Reserve Unit, Hoyer left Vermilion last February to report for duty.<BR><BR>He was due back this fall at VCC, where he was one semester away from graduating with a degree from the school’s natural resources program.<BR><BR>News of Hoyer’s death reached Vermilion Thursday morning and jarred the campus.<BR><BR>“Our campus loved Bert Hoyer,” said Vermilion Provost Sue Collins. “We respected him for his maturity and commitment to doing what he felt was right. We were waiting for Bert to return for next semester when he would finish his studies. He will live on in our hearts and in our memories forever.”<BR><BR>Hoyer, a native of Ellsworth, Wis., graduated from high school in 1999 and enrolled at Vermilion.<BR><BR>He was actively involved in both the community theater and choir, acting in local productions such as “Carousel” and “Pirates of Penzance.”<BR><BR>Hoyer performed at Vermilion’s 2002 commencement ceremonies and was part of the school’s football team in 2001.<BR><BR>Hoyer studied forestry at Vermilion and had an impact on other students, according to natural resource technology instructor Lori Schmidt.<BR><BR>“Bert was a great mentor for students in the natural resource program,” said Schmidt. “He was truly dedicated to his profession and was so looking forward to starting a career in forestry. Bert holds the record for making more networking contacts than any other student at the Society of American Forester’s meeting held in Ely a few years ago. He left an impression on everyone he met, and will always be remembered for his sense of humor, desire to question management decisions, learn new technology and willingness to help anyone, whether they be a student or instructor.”<BR><BR>Hoyer completed a school internship helping residents of Siren, Wisc., after a tornado devastated the city in 2001.<BR><BR>He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves, and was part of the 652nd Engineer company. He was promoted to Specialist 4th Class and earned two medals - the Army Service Medal and the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal.<BR><BR>In addition to his school activities, Hoyer also worked as a bartender at Zaverl’s Bar.<BR><BR>Vermilion officials said Friday that two scholarships will be established in Hoyer’s name. One will assist students with the cost for their summer internship and another will go to a graduate transferring to achieve a degree in forestry.<BR><BR>“As educators, our lives are often touched by students who love learning, who develop and grow thanks to our faculty tutelage and the relationships they build during their college years, and who lead those around them to love learning as well,” said Collins. “Bert Hoyer was one of those students. He has left an indelible mark on our college and on the people of the organization.”<BR><BR>