Updated at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, December 29, 2020
The Brillion News
WRIGHTSTOWN - Gene Vande Hey, Chief Emeritus of the Wrightstown Fire Department, lost a 15-year battle with cancer over the Christmas holiday weekend.
"It is with heavy hearts we announce that former Fire Chief Gene Vande Hey has passed away after a long battle with cancer," the WFD announced on Sunday morning, December 27. "We send our sympathies and prayers to the family during this hard time ... Rest in Peace Chief, we'll take it from here."
Vande Hey, age 75 years, passed away December 26, 2020, at his home surrounded by his family.
Visitation will be held on Monday, January 4, 2021, from 3:30 p.m. until a vigil service at 7 p.m. at St. Paul Church of St. Clare Parish, 437 Main Street, Wrightstown. Visitation will continue Tuesday morning at the church from 9 a.m. until the time of the Mass at 11 a.m.
The Verkuilen Van Deurzen Family Funeral Home is assisting the family.
Vande Hey nurtured many volunteer firefighters - including the current chief, Mike Schampers, assistant chief Ben Vosters and Travis Coenen, who is now the village's administrator.
Last April, the WFD and several other area fire departments staged a drive-by, walk-by parade in front of Vande Hey's Main Street home. Vande Hey had just returned home after a round of aggressive treatments to knock down the cancer.
Vande Hey was an accomplished private pilot, flying out of an airstrip in the Town of Lawrence for many years.
He also loved to pilot his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
- John Gillespie Magee Jr.