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BBE mourns loss of teacher, coach

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Marion Vos, third from right, and members of the Vos family visit the site Tuesday on U.S. Highway 71 where Vos' son, Richard, was killed earlier in the day while riding his bike. Marion said her son was "very loved and we were very proud of him." Richard Vos was a teacher at BBE and the school's wrestling coach. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 2

BELGRADE -- The Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa School District and community is mourning the loss of a teacher and coach killed early Tuesday morning while he was bicycling south of Belgrade.

Richard C. Vos, 38, of Belgrade, a BBE math teacher and wrestling coach, was killed before 5 a.m. Tuesday when he was struck by a southbound semi-truck passing him along U.S. Highway 71, according to the State Patrol.

The driver of the truck, Brian L. Anderson, 50, of Belgrade, was not injured in the crash, which occurred just north of the intersection with Kandiyohi County Road 34 and about a half-mile south of the Crow River Lutheran Church. The road there is flat and straight, with a gravel shoulder.

Both the semi and Vos were traveling south when the semi struck Vos, according to the State Patrol report. Vos ended up in the ditch where he was pronounced dead.

Vos was wearing a reflective vest, according to information from State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow, and there were lights found at the scene that may have come from the bike.

Word of the accident spread quickly Tuesday, and by mid-morning Vos had been identified as the victim in the crash and BBE Schools had canceled activities for the day.

BBE Superintendent Matt Bullard said the community lost a solid citizen, teacher and coach.

"He was one of those guys who was involved with everything," Bullard said, noting that Vos had just been helping in BBE's Homecoming. "He was always willing to help out with anything. He was a genuinely nice, nice guy. He always was telling his hunting and fishing stories and the kids got along with him and connected with him. He's not the kind of person you expect to be leaving us at age 38."

Vos, who joined the district in 1998, taught eighth-grade through 12th-grade math, and he was an assistant wrestling coach until succeeding Chuck Marks as head coach in 2001.

Vos grew up in a family of 12 children on a farm near Arlington, later moving to town. He and his brothers started wrestling for something to do, according to their mother Marion Vos.

The Vos boys wrestled for Sibley East. Richard continued wrestling at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Eight of Richard's 10 surviving brothers and sisters drove to Belgrade; together they visited the accident site about three miles south of town on Tuesday afternoon. A sister teaches in Burma and another sibling lives in Wisconsin. An older brother, Jeff, died at age 45 on a camping trip from sudden heart failure, Marion said.

"Richard was very easygoing," said Marion. "When he was a student, he would be the first to go to sleep in class. So we thought it was pretty funny when he became a teacher."

Her son wasn't much taller than some of his youngest wrestlers.

"When he started teaching, he made sure to wear a tie every day so they know he was a teacher and not a student."

As she was walking through the dry, brown grass along the flat stretch of highway, Marion Vos added: "We're all very proud of him. He is very loved."

Many who knew Vos, including current and former students, turned to social media Tuesday to discuss the loss. On Twitter, for example, users quickly established the "RIPMrVos" hashtag - a way to mark keywords or topics of interest on the social networking site. And on Facebook, a page has been created under the same phrase, "R.I.P Mr.Vos."

"We lost a teacher, coach, mentor, and all around great person today. RIP Mr. Vos," wrote Erin Weller on Twitter.

"Mr. Vos you were an amazing teacher, coach, and father. You will be greatly missed by everyone who had the good fortune of knowing you. Prayers go out to the Vos family," Whitney White said on her Facebook wall.

"Best math teacher a student could ever ask for. We love you and will miss you more than words can explain Mr. Vos ... RIP," Sadie Tollefson said on Twitter.

The BBE Jaguar Sports blog and others on Facebook and Twitter sent condolences to Vos' wife, Beth, and their two children.

Counselors from the neighboring Minnewaska Area and New London-Spicer districts were in the BBE schools on Tuesday, as well as counselors from Woodland Centers in Willmar. Bullard said a grief session for staff was planned Tuesday after school, and counselors will in the school again today.

Funeral arrangements for Vos were pending with Johnson Funeral Home of Belgrade.

Tribune staff writers Tom Larson, Gretchen Schlosser and Ashley White contributed to this story.