Alex Van Hemert passed away Nov. 22, 2009 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. He was born March 3, 1948 in Fremont, Mich., to Harvey and Barb (Dewitte) Van Hemert.
Upon graduation from Fremont High School, Alex attended Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Mich., where he earned a degree in mechanical drafting. He also received a graduate degree in recreational management from Northern Michigan University.
From 1968 to 1970, Alex served in the Army combat infantry and armored calvary and fought in the Vietnam War. He received numerous commendations and medals, including two Bronze Service Stars.
In 1975, Alex married Deborah Tittle. They divorced in 1984. They had one daughter, Brooke Van Hemert.
Alex worked for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, serving as a recreational planner in the Montrose, Colo. District from 1977 to 1981, and in San Juan County, Utah from 1981 to 1990. From 1991 to 2006, Alex worked for the BLM district office in Moab.
He is best remembered for gathering friends together for rafting and backpacking trips to explore the wilderness. The annual AH-HA backpacking trips with his best friend, Dale Houghtaling, provided many adventurous stories.
Alex and his companion, Karla Prudent, traveled together, river-rafted and attended outdoor music festivals. Alex shared his joy of rivers and the wilderness with his beloved daughter Brooke. The two of them rafted, hiked and four-wheeled, exploring the canyons and mountains.
Alex actively worked to preserve the canyons of the Colorado Plateau so that future generations might continue to have access to their quiet majesty. He was recognized nationally as the “Guru of Grand Gulch.”
He is survived by his daughter, Brooke, of Grand Junction, Colo.; two brothers, Michael Van Hemert and William Van Hemert, both of Michigan; sisters Pat Van Hemert of Byron Center, Mich., Peg Maki, of Trenary, Mich., and Melissa Grace of Grand Rapids, Mich.; and one grandchild, Annabelle Van Hemert.
A celebration of Alex’s life was held Dec. 6 at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center in Moab. His remains will be scattered by family and friends.
Services were under the care of Callahan-Edfast Mortuary in Grand Junction, Colo.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages contributions to the Western Rivers Conservancy, KZMU Moab community radio and the Humane Society of Moab Valley.