HANCOCK - Holly Bekkala was a good student who was also a good person, according to three Hancock Public Schools officials who knew her.
Bekkala was killed at about 7 p.m. Monday after being struck by a semi truck while crossing Interstate 35 on foot near Rush City, Minn. No other details of the incident were available at press time.
Karyn Ruohonen, who had Bekkala as a student in her Hancock Central High School psychology class, said she was special in her academic prowess and her ability to relate to people.
"Holly was an excellent student above all," she said. "She was one of those students who was wise beyond her years."
Ruohonen said Bekkala was willing to work with other students as a tutor, and she spent a great deal of time, in particular, with an exchange student at the high school.
"She made a difference in a lot of people's lives," she said.
Victoria Baltensperger, HCHS vocal teacher, said Bekkala also enjoyed music and competed as a soloist.
"She was an enthusiastic music student who was in choir from fourth grade to senior year," she said.
Baltensperger said Bekkala was a good leader in the classroom.
"She was such a wonderful person," Baltensperger said.
Monica Healy, Hancock Public Schools superintendent and middle school principal, said Bekkala graduated from HCHS in May. She was student of the month and the Copper Country Association of School Boards' Student of the Year because she was such a good role model for other students.
"She did a lot of tutoring with other kids," Healy said.
Bekkala was quiet but always smiling, Healy said.
"She just went about her business," Healy said.
In an April 2010 Daily Mining Gazette article about advanced placement classes, Bekkala said she intended to get a bachelor's degree in English from Finlandia University, then transfer to another institution to get a master's degree with the goal of becoming a teacher.
"I wanted the experience of a higher-level class," she said of the AP classes. "I knew it would look good on an application for college."
Bekkala was also taking AP biology, and it was a challenge.
"It's obviously more intense, but what you learn is worth the struggle," she said.
Ruohonen said Holly Bekkala was very special.
"She had one of those smiles that lit up a room," Ruohonen said.
The funeral for Bekkala will take place at 11 a.m. Friday at the First Apostolic Church in Calumet. Visitation is from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the church.