Three die in plane crash; Weller services are Thursday
A single-engine airplane crashed in Menomonie Friday night, killing three Hudson-area people, including Hudson businessman Brett Weller, 44. Pilot Laurence Berg, 51, and his wife Vicki, 53, of Houlton also died.
Weller had been very active in the Hudson business community for more than 20 years. In July 2008, Weller joined Kinziegreen Marketing Group's Hudson office, 744 Ryan Drive, Suite 101, as an account manager and business development director for the Wausau-based firm.
Before that, he worked for Resco Company in Hudson for about 12 years, serving as marketing and sales manager, telecommunications manager and account manager. Prior to that, he was a sales agent for eight years with Northwestern Mutual Life Co. in Hudson.
He was active in various community organizations including past board chair of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.
The story has many tragic angles, but among them is the fact that he had recently married Mary Finn of Hudson, in October 2008. Both had lost their previous spouses to illness. Weller's first wife, Kathy (Hosley), died May 24, 1999. Finn's first husband, John Finn, died July 17, 2002, of brain cancer.
Weller is survived by his wife, Mary, and a stepdaughter, Maggie Finn.
The plane, a Cirrus SR20, was traveling from Sheboygan to New Richmond and crashed at about 9:44 p.m. Jan. 30 in a field and wooded area just east of Hwy. 25 near 770th Avenue in the town of Tainter, about four miles north of Menomonie.
Reports indicate that Laurence went to Sheboygan to pick up his wife, Vicki, in that city. Weller, a close friend of the Bergs, decided to go along for the ride.
According to reports in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, several area residents saw parts of the crash. Several reported seeing a glow in the area where the plane impacted and burst into flames. One witness reported that he didn't think the motor of the plane was running as the plane descended.
Wreckage was scattered across an area 150 by 400 yards.
National Transportation Safety Board officials were at the crash scene Saturday and will try to determine the cause of the crash. Weather Friday night did not appear to be an obvious factor.
The NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash, and it is expected to take about a week for the preliminary report. A final report could take up to a year.
State Rep. Kitty Rhoades was Hudson Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau president when Weller served as board chair in 1994.
"Brett left a footprint on our community," Rhoades said. He was an incredible volunteer and was active in so many organizations, including Hot Air Affair, the Carpenter Nature Center and more.
"He made people around him happy to be with him."
"This is a sad story," Rhoades said. "Both Brett and Mary had lost spouses, and the two of them had just started a new life together."
Rhoades said Weller proposed to Mary at a Canadian home owned by Laurence and Vicki Berg.
Current Chamber President Kim Heinemann also said Weller will be missed.
"He was so enthusiastic about volunteering here," Heinemann said. "He officially served in the 1990s, but he was still very active. He had recently applied to be an ambassador (Chamber members who visit new businesses), he attended industrial council meetings and he was at our annual banquet Jan. 22.
"He was involved and instrumental in helping with Chamber programs and events - he was always happy and enthusiastic."
Heinemann said, "He had a lot of new, wonderful life changes," referring to his recent marriage and new job. "This is really tragic."
Longtime friend Tony Fall of rural Roberts has been a close friend of Weller since he came to the Hudson area in the late 1980s. Before either married, they were roommates for five or six years.
"He was one of a kind," Fall said. "He was always happy and he was always helping people. He did more in his life than 10 people do in a normal lifetime."
Fall, who operates a carpentry and cabinetry business in Hudson called Nordic Builders, said he and Weller shared at least four apartments or homes in the Hudson and North Hudson area when both were single.
"We did everything together for several years," Fall said. "We hung out on weekends, we camped near Hayward, he helped me build a hunting shack in Reeve (town of Reeve in Barron County), we hunted together - I would even rope him into helping me hang Sheetrock some evenings, and he always worked with a smile."
In the 1990s, Fall said he and Weller planted about 1,200 Christmas tree seedlings on property in Barron County.
"The last eight or nine years, we'd take our families and go up and harvest a Christmas tree - Brett's parents would even come up from Wausau," Fall said. "We'd build a bonfire and make a day of it. In fact, Brett, Mary and Maggie were with us up there in December just before Christmas.
"There are so many stories I could tell," Fall said. "He was a super guy - I still can't believe he's gone."
Cindy Brown, an employee at Resco in Hudson, worked with Weller for 12 years.
"He was a great co-worker and beloved friend," Brown said. "He was there for everybody else all the time - there are not enough people like Brett in the world. He was the first to check and see if you were OK. He was always there in the good times and the bad times.
"He was a joy to work with and always had a good attitude and a friendly attitude. He will be missed."
Weller was born Jan. 22, 1965, in Riverside, Calif., at March Air Force Base to Robert and Mary (Gries) Weller. He grew up in Rothschild and graduated from D.C. Everest High School. He graduated in 1988 from UW-Eau Claire with a degree in business administration and organizational communication. Hudson had been his home since 1988.
Visitation for Weller is 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at O'Connell Family Funeral Home.
The funeral is at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. For a complete obituary, see page 8C of this week's print edition. The full obituary will also appear online beginning Friday morning.
Laurence Berg worked at Andersen's in Bayport, Minn., for more than 31 years. He was a member of the Quarter Century Club, having worked his way up through the organization from the plant, to the service area, to the Circle of Excellence, where he led a team of personnel who supported the sales and marketing needs of top dealers.
He purchased the airplane that crashed Friday night in November and had just taken delivery in January. Reports show that Berg was an experienced pilot and was licensed with an instrument rating. The plane was housed at the New Richmond airport. He had plans for developing a charter business upon his retirement.
Laurence graduated from Stillwater High School and attended Bemidji State University and UW-Eau Claire.
Vicki Berg was a nurse anesthetist who owned Vital Anesthesia Services and traveled to many hospitals in the area and around the country and was in Sheboygan on business Friday.
Vicki Berg was a La Crosse native and graduated from Logan High School in 1973. The Bergs were married in April 1995 on top of Vail Mountain in Vail, Colo. Together they enjoyed a passion for skiing, which took them on many adventures as examiners for the Professional Ski Instructors of America. They also enjoyed golfing, trap shooting and snowmobiling.
The couple owned a second home in Canada, where they both snowmobiled regularly. They had no children.
A joint memorial visitation is scheduled Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Dickinson Family Funeral Home in La Crosse.
A second memorial service is scheduled Friday in Stillwater. Bradshaw funeral home is handling the arrangements, www.bradshawfuneral.com, (651) 439-5511.
Michelle Thompson, a neighbor of the Bergs, said the couple were "very, very nice people. "They were very nice people who enjoyed life."
She told about a small brush fire they had on their property and said Laurence Berg was the first one to run over and help them douse the flames.
Thompson, who was shocked by the crash, was a friend to all three of the victims.
"I knew Brett and he would sometimes stop at our house when he came out to visit the Bergs," Thompson said. "The whole neighborhood is shocked by the crash."
Thompson said all three victims were avid trap shooters at one time and it may be how they met.
Another neighbor, Mary Branch, echoed Thompson's remarks.
"The Bergs lived in the neighborhood for about 10 years," Branch said. "They were always friendly and helpful. They enjoyed travel and loved skiing."