Jeff Van Hecke — In Memoriam
September 28, 1965 – May 14, 2018
My good friend and Vets Vites business partner Jeff Van Hecke passed away unexpectedly on May 14, 2018. He inspired, uplifted and bonded with many people thanks to his huge heart, street smarts, story telling and passion for life. He also loved riding his Harley with his wife Yolanda and with his buddies from VFW Post 6448 in Dyer, Indiana. The photo above was taken when Jeff and I introduced Vets Vites products at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention in New Orleans in July 2017.
On the day he passed, I wrote this poem in his memory…Peter Finkle
In Memoriam: Jeff Van Hecke
You Blessed us while you were here
With your multi-faceted life:
You gave us the gifts of
Your talented hands,
Your sharp mind,
Your creative voice,
Your giving heart.
We Bless you now
As your soaring spirit
Hops on for a final ride
On the open road,
To find Rest at last.
The Inspiration for Starting Vets Vites
“They served us, now it’s our turn to serve them.”
Vets Vites is inspired by Jeff’s father, who served with distinction in the Marine Corps in the Asia-Pacific campaign during World War II. Vets Vites is dedicated to all who have given so much, and to their families. Our mission is to support the health of our Veterans and their families through high quality nutrition products. We are proud to say that we will be donating a portion of our profits back to Veterans organizations.
Jeff’s Story (written July 2017)
Jeff’s Father: Corporal Camiel D. Van Hecke
United States Marine Corps World War ll
Asiatic Pacific Campaign
Enlisted – September 22, 1943
Honorable Discharge – March 2, 1945
Passed away in 1993 from lung cancer.
“As a child, I never got to know my Father, as he and my mother were divorced when my twin sister and I were only six months old.
It wasn’t until I turned 13 years old that he started to come back into our lives, along with his new wife Dawn. I remember he would take us out on Sundays to the museums and baseball games, but in my mind, I could never forgive him for leaving us as very small children. When my own child became a teenager, I realized that I needed to find a way to forgive my Father, and to honor his memory. Around 2010 I joined the Dyer, Indiana VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) post #6448 as an Auxiliary Member. I found deep satisfaction honoring my Father by volunteering my time to help our Veterans any way I could.
I am now a lifetime Auxiliary Member. I am grateful for all the friends who I think of as family at our post, from our Commander and Senior Vice Commander to the patrons who come in on a regular basis. God Bless them all!
Recently, I had to leave a company that I had been with for 18 years in the supplement industry. With my last paycheck in hand, I thought… wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a way to manufacture a line of supplements to support our Veterans and their families. That’s when I came up with the name Vets Vites.
I called my business partner Peter Finkle who had also just left the company we were working for. He was excited about the idea I had come up with so we immediately began to go to work coming up with formulas, labels, and researching whether there were any companies offering a package like ours. We couldn’t find anything like our idea. I am elated at the fact that we can offer the highest quality, most effective and unique products not only for our Veterans, but also to everyone who cares about our Veterans.”
Sergeant 1st Class Louis W. Sheckard (man in the middle in photo above)
“From a young age, I always looked forward to visiting my grandfather and grandmother. They were always good at spoiling their grandchildren! I knew my grandfather had served in World War I, but he never talked much about it. Just recently, I came across the photo above, some old documents, and most amazing of all, his handwritten Log Book from the beginning of his military training through the end of his deployment. Here are some highlights of his story.
Exactly one hundred years ago my grandfather Lou was in World War I France. He served in the 1st Platoon, D Company, 111th Engineers, part of the 1st Army Corps.
You may remember that World War I started in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson declared at that time that the United States would remain neutral in the war that was engulfing all of Europe. That did not change until April 6, 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany.
The Engineers platoon my grandfather joined was actually started by a group of young men in Tulsa, Oklahoma March 1, 1917, even before war was declared. My grandfather had his enlistment and physical exam in Tulsa on April 25, 1917.
The D Company went into engineering training at U.S. bases late August 1917, and 11 months later landed in France on August 1, 1918. The 111th Engineers repaired roads and railroads, built bridges, cleared mines, filled mine craters and rebuilt the town of Vienne le Chateau. When they had to get from one part of the front to another, they generally marched all night to be less visible to German shelling. My grandfather arrived back in the United States on May 30, 1919.
My grandfather Lou changed his surname from Sheckard to Shepard after the war. He married my grandmother Clara in 1923 in Cleveland, and three years later my mother was born. During the depression, my grandfather could not find work in Cleveland, so when he got a job working on the building of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the family moved out to California in 1935.
Looking through some papers that my mother saved, I found my grandfather’s VFW membership card from 1971. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my grandfather was in the VFW, just like my business partner Jeff was.”
See the Vets Vites Blog & News section for excerpts from my grandfather’s World War I Log Book, accompanied by photos from the Library of Congress and military archives.