Dyer, IN — Long-time industry stalwart Jeffrey Van Hecke passed away suddenly on Monday, May 14 at the age of 52. Van Hecke spent 18 years as national sales manager of Yerba Prima until last year. Since then, he began his own venture with his business partner Peter Finkle called Vet Vites, a dietary supplement brand which donates a portion of its profits to veteran organizations. Van Hecke’s own father was a veteran of World War II and he joined the Dyer, IN VFW Post #6448 as an auxiliary member to honor his father’s memory by helping other veterans. Vet Vites is an extension of that ambition. In addition to his activism on behalf of military veterans, Van Hecke was also politically active serving as vice chairman for the Dyer Democratic precinct. A motorcycle enthusiast, Van Hecke also enjoyed spending his leisure time riding his Harley Davidson.

The industry grieved this sudden passing, sharing their memories of Van Hecke and their gratitude for having known him. Dr. Michael Garko expressed sadness at Van Hecke’s passing on his radio show “Let’s Talk Nutrition.”

“He was far too young to leave this earth and his passing is yet one more reminder that each day is a gift to be opened,” said Garko. “I’m heartbroken for his family, I’m going to miss him terribly. He was a guest on his show scores of times over the years and he always had a sense of humor and was enthusiastic and I immensely enjoyed my relationship with him. He loved life, he lived it to the fullest. He did not miss an opportunity to enjoy himself.”

Former Yerba Prima colleague Siggy Brzostowski said on Facebook of Van Hecke, “He had the faith in me to give me a shot at my job, in a city where there is not a lot of quality work 18 years ago. It set me on my career path that has made me the man I am today and not sure where I'd be without the chance he took on me as a stupid, young, cocky kid that had no direction on what I was gonna do with my life. He will be truly missed and happy that I spent a long weekend with him in Chicago just a few weeks ago. I’ll cherish our times and friendship always. He will be greatly missed by so many. The world lost a truly great person today.”

WholeFoods reached out Van Hecke’s industry colleagues. This is what Nicole D’Amico, director of supplier relationship for Select Wellness has to say: “Jeffrey Van Hecke was not just an industry colleague, he was a dear friend. I knew Jeff for over 10 years and he would give me big brother advice, had an infectious way of making me laugh and provided guidance as best he knew how from his industry experience. He was incredibly passionate with any brand he represented, thoughtful to all sides of the business and a true spirit. I always looked forward to seeing him at the trade shows knowing I would get a heartfelt greeting from him.  Expo East was always around his birthday and it made the show even more special.  There is definitely an angel with a leather jacket on, looking over this industry. Though he is gone, he will never be forgotten and always in my heart.”

Van Hecke had many friends in the industry and WholeFoods encourages everyone to share their memories of him in the comments section below.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Yolanda Van Hecke; son, Jonathan Van Hecke; brother-in-law, Roger J. (Enelyn) Ferreira; son-in-law of Rogelio and Mireya Ferreira; nephew, Roger A. Ferreira and niece, Danielle Ferreira.