IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — The University of Iowa community is mourning the sudden loss of a first-year student, Gerald Belz, who was found in the frigid cold last week.
The 18-year-old who would turn 19 on Feb. 10th later died at the hospital.
The University of Iowa police found him outside, as the wind chill made it feel like it was 50 degrees below zero on campus, in Iowa City, early Wednesday morning.
On Monday, the same day his family laid his body to rest, a prayer service was held on campus for Belz and his family.
Students and strangers slowly filled in the Newman Catholic Student Center for the 7 p.m. service.
“It meant a lot. I don’t know if he ever stepped foot in here but I feel the love and compassion,’ Michael Belz, Gerald Belz’s father, said.
Around 50 people gathered at the Newman Catholic Student Center tonight to pray for and with Gerald Belz’s family. Gerald — who is described as a loyal and compassionate person — died last week after being found on campus unresponsive in the cold. pic.twitter.com/7z13qTd3M8
— Jalyn Souchek (@JalynSouchekTV) February 5, 2019
The Belz family said it’s their faith that has been getting them through this. They, as did Gerald’s girlfriend, came to Iowa City to attend the service. His girlfriend said it was a nice gesture for the center to do.
“We don’t want to be sad about him. We want to remember every good part of him,” Leeanne Mehring-Cruz, Gerald Belz’s girlfriend, said.
Around 50 people gathered inside the church to pray with and for the Belz family. Afterward, people that didn’t know Gerald spoke about how his story and life touched them as they felt compelled to offer their condolences and prayers to the family.
Gerald’s father said they’ve had an overwhelming amount of support and so many people have told them good stories about his son.
“It just kind of echoes how I feel about him. I got to see every intimate part about him. It’s nice to know other people see it too,” Mehring-Cruz said.
The senior Belz said every day they heal a little more but their hearts will be forever broken.
“Our lives are not going to get back to normal but there will be a new normal. Gerald won’t physically be with us but he’ll be with us spiritually. He’ll be with us in our hearts and mind,” he said.
Mehring-Cruz said the family still doesn’t have any more answers as to what happened to him. She said that’s been on the of hardest parts to deal with but she said supporting his family and them supporting her is getting them through it together.
The official cause of Belz’s death has not been released yet but it is believed to be weather-related. The investigation by police is still ongoing.