Memorial service held for retired firefighter killed in Alabama

MILWAUKEE -- A memorial service was held Thursday to remember a retired Milwaukee firefighter who spent the last year-and-a-half enjoying his retirement before being killed in a hit and run crash in Alabama last week. Michael Hoeft spent three decades serving Milwaukee residents as a firefighter and EMT.

The memorial service took place at the Church of Christ on Milwaukee's south side.

"He's better off, now, that's for sure," Battalion Chief, Christopher Snyder said Monday, of his long-time Milwaukee firefighter-colleague, Michael Hoeft. "That evening, I would say 9, 9:30, I got the text that Mike was called home," Snyder said.

"That evening" was last Wednesday, when Hoeft died from injuries he sustained a day earlier, as the 53-year-old Hoeft was reportedly riding a recumbent bike on a county road in Gulf Shores, Alabama, when he was hit by a vehicle that fled the scene.

Members of Hoeft's family headed from Wisconsin to Alabama to help search the scene, and they found a piece of a headlight that investigators say belongs to a Ford Explorer registered to Dennis Hutcheson. "I think it's just something we felt we really had to be a part of, just to help bring closure to everything that's going on.  It's not easy, to say the least," Hoeft's son, Matt said.

"It's just amazing how everyone's cooperating and it's a blessing," Hoeft's son, Nicholas said.

Tuesday, police in Gulf Shores arrested 52-year-old Hutcheson.

Snyder says he and Hoeft spent several years working together at two firehouses - Holton and Nash and 30th and Galena, before Hoeft eventually moved to EMS work, and in January of 2011, retired after 30 years on the job. "Super guy, very nice guy, very active guy. I guess, if there is such a thing, a typical firefighter," Snyder said.

Snyder says Hoeft's years of service helped make the city safer. "Whatever capacity Mike worked in here for the Milwaukee Fire Department, he served this department and the citizens of Milwaukee to his best ability," Snyder said.

A memorial service is scheduled to take place Thursday morning at 11:00 at Southside Church of Christ. A visitation will precede that, beginning at 9:00 a.m.