MILWAUKEE — The community is remembering and reflecting on Friday, exactly one year after a gunman shot and killed five Molson Coors employees in Milwaukee, before turning the gun on himself.
Those employees are Jesus Valle Jr., 33, Gennady "Gene" Levshetz, 61, Trevor Wetselaar, 33, Dana Walk, 57, Dale Hudson, 60.
Authorities say the shooting happened mid-afternoon on Feb. 26, 2020. Tactical law enforcement teams swarmed the campus and employees were told to shelter in place.
Molson Coors Community Affairs Director Tami Garrison was there on that day. She said earlier this week it was an incredibly tough time for the company, especially as the pandemic emerged just a few weeks later.
Throughout the year the company has offered counseling and other services for employees, and Garrison says the company wants to be supportive of how its employees choose to observe the day.
"I think just acknowledging that everybody is going to feel a little bit differently about Friday, and they are going to look back on that day a little bit differently," Garrison said. "And we as a company want to make sure we are providing the opportunity for everybody to do what is important for them on that day."
On Friday, employees were able to take the day off if they wish. Each shift for each brewery will begin with a moment of silence. In the afternoon, there was a virtual moment of silence for all employees.
Garrison said Molson Coors worked with the National Compassion Fund to establish the Miller Valley Survivors' Fund, which she said has raised $1.8 million for the families of the victims.
The company put up a memorial in honor of the victims across the street from the campus's visitor center.
Nearby businesses also paid tribute in their own ways.
For 35 years McBob’s has been a place where Molson Coors employees celebrate the end of their shift. But on February 26th, 2020 – and in the days after – they gathered there to grieve.
“We had people come in crying,” said Erin Reynolds, a manager at McBob’s. “Others came in worried about families and friends who work there. They were trying to call people and get answers. We just tried to bring them as much comfort as possible. If they needed to talk, we were there to listen. It was really important for us to help them out.”
Then, just weeks after the mass shooting at Molson Coors, Covid-19 hit, and the gatherings at McBob’s stopped.
“It was really hard not to be able to see our regulars, and check on all those people,” Reynolds said. “It magnified what was already a really tough time. We want all of them to know we’re here for them.”
So many people want to be there for the families whose loved ones never returned home from work one year ago. They are choosing to mourn privately, but shared written statements with TMJ4.
Tanya Paler, the oldest daughter of Gennady "Gene" Levshetz, wrote this about her dad:
“I felt my dad’s warmth, joy, and pride in me every day of my life. He always wanted the best for our family and he would do anything to get it. He worked countless hours to provide for us and make sure we had everything we needed and wanted. My dad taught me how to be strong and independent; he taught me how to pave my own way in life. On February 26, 2020, I lost all of that. This past year has been filled with more sorrow than I ever could have imagined. It was made only worse by the isolation that COVID brought along with it. Every birthday, holiday, anniversary – every special occasion is bittersweet because he was taken from us. Every day, we wake up to a nightmare that is our new reality. His death is tragic, senseless, and infuriating…we will never be whole again. I am thankful every day for the incredible life that my dad has given us. I miss his smile that started with his eyes and lit up his entire face. I miss the sound of his voice and the warmth of his hugs. I work hard to keep his memory alive for my children, and will continue to do so as long as I live. I love him yesterday, today and forever. I hope that he is now spending his days in his happy place: on a beach chair in Mexico with a tequila shot in hand and the sun shining down on him.”
Levshetz’s youngest daughter, Becca Levshetz, shared this:
“My dad was selfless beyond measure. He would do anything in his power for his family. No task was too big or too small. If there was something we wanted or needed, he would move mountains to get it for us. He was constantly fixing something and making it better. Something always needed to be improved. Something always needed to be done for us, and he never hesitated to be the man for the job. My dad was the strongest person I ever knew. He moved our family to America to give us a better life. He was working for our family. He was working to provide us with the best life possible. He wanted his girls to be strong, successful, educated, and independent women. There is no doubt in my mind that I get my work ethic, drive, and ambition from him. My dad taught me how important family and true friendships are. He was my best friend, my confidant, my advice giver, and my supporter. My dad was, my dad still is, larger than life. A year later, our lives have 100% flipped upside down. We do not feel whole. There is an enormous presence that is so noticeably missing. Our days are emptier, our holidays are sadder, and our souls are angrier. A year later, I still cannot get used to talking and writing about my dad in the past tense. A year later, and I am still in the thick of grief. I don't really feel any different than I did a year ago. I remember everything as vividly as I did a month, a week, a day after everything happened. I am sad, angry, confused, and heart broken. I would do anything to go back in time. I would do anything for one last hug, one last kiss, one last goodbye.”
Dana Walk and Dale Hudson were both beloved fathers of three.
One of Walk’s daughters, Michelle Reed, sent us this statement: “My dad was an amazing person that spread his laugh and joy wherever he could whenever he could. He’d crack a beer with literally anyone and talk fishing for hours and hours. He was a walking fishing almanac. We miss seeing his face, especially when he caught a fish. There was nothing happier in the world than his smile and laugh and it was contagious. He would help you if you ever needed it, whether it be advice on fishing houses or cars he always told us kids he’d do anything he could to help. And he woke up each and every day grateful. Grateful to work and just to be together as family. He’d do anything to make someone laugh or smile, and share in that joy with them. We miss him terribly and deeply. But we love him more and more every day, and nothing will ever dwindle that feeling or make it go away. We will cherish our memories forever.”
Dale Hudson’s wife, Kathleen Hudson, shared this: “It has been a very difficult year for the family without Dale and our hearts are slowly healing. Dale was dearly loved by family and friends and we miss him deeply. We are so thankful for all the support, prayers, and generous gifts from so many caring people who reached out to help us. We wish for healing for the other families who are also missing their loved ones who were taken from them on that heartbreaking day.”
Jesus Valle, Jr. was robbed of his chance to watch his young children grow. Valle’s family says his son and daughter, who are just three and four-years-old, still ask about their dad every day. They are too young to fully understand that he’s not coming home.
Trevor Wetselaar had just settled back in Milwaukee with his wife, after six years in the Navy.
Trevor’s mother, Janet, sent us this:
We would like you to know our son. Trevor was a generous, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky guy who shared a love of reading, brewing beer, and playing board games. He enjoyed an occasional cigar with his brother, Tony, or while talking to his out-of-state friends. He attended the University of Wisconsin and married his college sweetheart, his soul mate. After college, Trevor joined the Navy where he spent two years in nuclear power training school. Upon graduation, he served four years aboard the nuclear submarine, USS Maryland 738. He was twice decorated for services he performed while deployed. After his military service, he wanted to return to the Milwaukee area to be close to family. He was so happy when he became a power house operator at Miller Brewery in 2018 and could finally settle down in one place surrounded by family and friends. On February 26, 2020 our joyous reunion came to an abrupt and tragic end. It is a shame that as his dreams were being realized he was taken in such a grueling manner as he was just showing up to begin his shift. There was a private military service for Trevor attended by servicemen and women, as well as extended family and friends from all over the U. S. to pay tribute to our fallen hero. For our family, including Tony, Trevor's brother, and Trevor's wife, every day is filled with misery and sadness that we must live with for the rest of our lives. We miss his daily phone calls, texts, and impromptu visits. Extended family share our grief, and we all lost a very special person on that horrid day. As his mother, I hope people will choose to perform an act of kindness on this date in the memory of those we lost.
And there is another family grieving through all of this. The wife and children of the Molson Coors shooter, Anthony Ferrill. Ferrill turned the gun on himself after shooting his five coworkers.
Milwaukee Police told TMJ4 News it has completed its investigation into the shooting, and the motive is unknown. Police identified the shooter as 51-year-old Anthony Ferrill, who neighbors say worked as an electrician for the company for many years.