ST. CHARLES, Minn. (WCCO) — A southeast Minnesota community is in shock after Sunday night’s severe storms took the life of a popular high school teacher.
Cook County authorities say 43-year-old Craig Walz died after a large tree snapped and fell on him. He was on a Father’s Day camping trip in the Boundary Waters with his 14-year-old son and two others when he was killed.
Craig is also the brother of U.S. Congressman Tim Walz.
“He cared about the kids and he would do a lot of tutoring before and after school. Always had time for the kids,” said St. Charles High School principal Ben Bernard.
Like many parents, he worked hard to balance family time and work.
After 13 years as a math and science teacher at St. Charles high school just east of Rochester, Bernard believes Craig Walz’s legacy will carry on in his students.
One of those students placed a single flower on his classroom door Monday.
“He really did a good job of finding a way to connect with students, finding a way to say, ‘Maybe you don’t think you can pass this class, you don’t think you can get through, but I’ll get you through,'” said Bernard.
Craig Walz and his son Jacob were enjoying a Father’s Day weekend trip to the Boundary Waters with two others when storms tore through their campsite at Duncan Lake around 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Cook County officials say a large white pine blew over, taking Walz’ life, and leaving his son Jacob badly hurt.
Because of the severe weather, search and rescue teams were able to get Jacob to a hospital, but had to wait until this morning to go back for Craig Walz.
“Just in general with the wind, we’re trying to get in their with canoes in the Boundary Waters, and not using motorized equipment and the wind causes white caps which is very tough canoeing, and actually can cause some dangers to the rescuers as well,” said ranger Kurt Steele.
Craig Walz wanted so badly to always be there for everyone he cared about. Bernard knows his friend did a great job until the very end.
“He’s made an impact in their lives and they won’t forget it,” Bernard said.
Jacob is in critical condition at a Duluth hospital tonight. The two others on the trip are okay.
Rep. Tim Walz’s office released a statement expressing the family’s gratitude to law enforcement, first responders and fellow campers who responded immediately to help.