Catholic Center holds vigil in memory of UI student Gerald Belz

A vigil was held Monday evening in the Newman Catholic Student Center, where many remembered Gerald Belz and offered his family support.


Katina Zentz

Michael Belz, father of Gerald Belz, pays his respects during his son’s vigil at the Newman Catholic Student Center on Monday, February 4, 2019. Gerald died on Wednesday.

Brooklyn Draisey, News Editor

Gerald Belz loved football, though his father said he wasn’t the best player in the game.

“Even though he was never any good at it, he loved to play,” Michael Belz, Gerald’s father, said.

He played on the scout team for the Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School Cougars, helping the varsity team prepare for its games.

Gerald, a University of Iowa student in his second semester, died on Jan. 30 in the hospital after being found unresponsive near Halsey Hall. The Newman Catholic Student Center held a vigil for Gerald on Monday evening.

Soft piano music filled the chapel as students, faculty, and Iowa City residents filed in. Priest Director Jeff Belger led the group, including Gerald’s parents, brother, girlfriend, and other family members, through prayers and song.

Leeanne Mehring-Cruz, Gerald’s girlfriend, said his death still doesn’t feel real, but church services have helped her cope. The two met in their junior year of high school, and Mehring-Cruz said she asked him out first.

“He was the nicest person I’ve ever met,” she said.

Michael said Gerald had a quiet, tough-guy exterior that would crack open when you got to know him. He was a loyal, compassionate, and trustworthy friend.

“I don’t know if I could dig down and search and find anybody who would say a negative thing about him,” Iowa football player Dalles Jacobus, a former Kennedy player, said.

Jacobus and Gerald used to work out together, and though Jacobus was two years older, he said everyone noticed Gerald because he was so hard-working.

“I just really admired how … he was never the star of the show, but he showed up every day and busted his butt,” he said.

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Brian White, Gerald’s high-school football coach, said he had an important role on the team. Belz, who took White’s senior-level government class as a junior, was also an exemplary student, White said.

“He did everything the right way,” White said.

Gerald’s passion for football translated into rugby, and he became an inaugural member of his high school’s rugby team. Michael said he would watch any rugby game he could, especially if it was the U.S. National team, and take mental notes.

Katina Zentz
Michael Belz, father of Gerald Belz, pays his respects during his son’s vigil at the Newman Catholic Student Center on Monday, February 4, 2019. Gerald died on Wednesday.

The UI was Gerald’s first and only choice of college, Michael said. Michael is an Iowa native and Hawkeye fan, so when Gerald decided to go to college on the pre-medicine track, there really wasn’t another option.

Gerald wanted to become a doctor, Michael said, because he saw the struggles a loved one with various medical issues faced.

“He wanted to become a doctor so he could help,” Michael said. “If not this individual, then others.”

Memories have flooded back in the last few days, Michael said, and he shared one he thought those who knew Gerald would get a kick out of.

About a year and a half ago, Michael said, Gerald was driving back from his girlfriend’s house when something went wrong with his old Ford Ranger. Gerald had bought the car himself, and he was told the suspension would break if he wasn’t careful.

Michael told Gerald to pull in a place a few miles down the road, and went out to meet him. But when Michael got there, he could tell that it wasn’t the suspension. Gerald had somehow blown his front-right tire, and because he kept driving on it for almost three miles, he ended up shredding both right-side tires. He said it was a life lesson Gerald learned.

“I just want to let everybody know what a trustworthy, compassionate person he was,” he said.

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