Eric Lee Goepfert, a veteran and active service member of the United States Army Reserves with the 345th Military Intelligence Battalion, C Co., died while attempting a solo climb of Mount Whitney in California.
A celebration of life will take place Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022 from noon to 2 p.m. at the American Legion, 616 7th Avenue in Howard Lake.
A service with full military honors will take place at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, at a later date.
Eric’s family is so thankful for all that the Inyo County Sheriff's Office and the dedicated group of volunteers with the Inyo County Search and Rescue has done during this incredibly difficult time. The SAR team braved wintery, mountainous conditions in order to find Eric and bring him home, which means everything.
In lieu of flowers, the family feels that Eric would want donations made in his memory to: Inyo County Search and Rescue, PO Box 982, Bishop, CA 93515. https://inyosar.com/donate/
Eric was an experienced climber and his planning and preparation was meticulous. On the second day of his ascent, he decided to turn back due to various factors. It was during his descent that Eric passed away and was later found by the Search and Rescue team at the base of the Ebersbacher Ledges.
The initial report by the SAR team, based on the evidence they had at hand, indicated that Eric fell during his descent on the mountaineering trail; however, the family felt it prudent to share that he ultimately passed away due to hypothermia, rather than traumatic injury.
It is impossible to encompass all that Eric accomplished in his life, or describe who he was in mere words, nor express how much he was loved, respected, and admired by all those who crossed his path; however, he will be in our hearts and cherished memories forever.
Eric was born June 13, 1971, in Waconia, the son of Richard Lee Goepfert and Margaret Rose Herda.
He was involved in Civil Air Patrol in his early teens, and graduated from Howard Lake-Waverly High School in 1989.
Over the years, he obtained dual associate’s degrees in language studies and intelligence operations studies, and was in the process of obtaining his bachelor’s degree in intelligence operations.
After graduating from high school, Eric enlisted in the United States Army, where he went on to have a distinguished 28-year military career, achieving the rank of Warrant Officer II.
Aside from countless training missions, he was stationed and went on several deployments around the world, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Among his military achievements, he tried out for and was selected to serve as a member of the elite United States Army Drill Team. He also graduated with Distinguished Honors from the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca, AZ in 2007. In 2009, he graduated from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, where he studied to become an Arabic linguist. His love for languages exceeded his role in the military. On his own time, he was constantly studying other languages, such as Czech, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.
Outside his military career, Eric worked on various military contracts, which brought him to locations all over the world. Most recently, he served as a senior digital forensic examiner at Quiet Professionals, a defense contracting company in Tampa, FL. Prior to Quiet Professionals, he worked with Joint Special Operations Command out of Fort Bragg, NC.
With an ever-curious mind and a passion for adventure, Eric had a wide-range of interests.
A lover of history, he was an amateur genealogist and had traced part of his family tree back to the 16th century.
As a coin collector, he was continuously researching the origins of the Roman coins he had purchased over the years.
He was also involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), where he participated in mock battles and became a self-taught blacksmith, where he made chainmail and other types of medieval armor.
As an enthusiastic outdoorsman, he became a certified Divemaster and was constantly looking to not only improve his own diving skills, but also to help others achieve their goals, as well.
Eric’s biggest passion, however, was for all things climbing from hiking, to rock climbing, to mountain climbing. Among the many summits he had conquered are Mount Cardigan (3,155’), Mount Washington (6,288’), Mount Baldy (10,066’), Mount Baker (10,786’), Humphreys Peak (12,633’), and he had previously climbed Mount Whitney (14,505’) in 2009.
Eric had recently set his most ambitious mountaineering goal yet to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each continent, before he turned 60 years old.
Eric is survived by his wife, Colleen (Smith) Goepfert; stepsons, Ryan Ford and Cody Ford; and grandson, Nolan Ford; father, Richard Goepfert, and stepmother, Judy Goepfert; siblings, Elaine Goepfert (Jason Albrechtson), Jacob Goepfert, Luke Goepfert, and Jamie Fors; grandmother, Joyce Goepfert; nephews and niece, Matthew Goepfert, Aiden Barberg, Dylan Barberg, and Elizabeth Albrechtson; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends; and a special young man, Max Willms.
Eric was predeceased by his mother, Margaret Herda, and grandparents, Stanley Goepfert, Joseph and Anne Herda, and Rune and Lillian Fors.