Student Voice


December 6, 2023



UWRF student dies of cancer

September 30, 2021

A UW-River Falls student, Cole Berra, age 22, died on Sept. 23 of a cancer called NUT 1 carcinoma, according to his obituary.

Berra was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Sept. 11, 1999. He graduated from Aquinas High School in 2018, where he was involved in music, sports, and participated in 4-H club and shooting sports.

Berra was in the UWRF Agricultural Engineering Technology Program, which he completed in three years. According to his obituary, Berra also was part of the fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho, and was elected President of the Quarter Scale Tractor Club. Berra even studied abroad in India back in January 2020.

Cole Berra
Cole Berra (Submitted photo)

Berra learned about tractor pulling, and after his junior year he was selected as a Technical Service Intern with CLAAS of America, a global manufacturer of agricultural machinery. He was stationed in Omaha, Nebraska, and traveled around to test and repair equipment. His internship was cut short by his illness in July.

According to his obituary, Berra loved his Chevy Duramax Diesel Truck and his Harley Davidson Softail motorcycle. Berra and his brother, Clay, would often ride together. Berra was an avid deer hunter and enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.

Berra is survived by his parents; his brother, Clay; maternal grandparents Kenneth and Florence Sonsalla; his uncles John Berra, Steve Berra, Gerard and Wina Sonsalla; Greg and Joan Sonsalla in Virginia, Glenn and MaryAnn Sonsalla; his first cousins Matthew Berra, Michael Berra, Brandon Sonsalla, Jennifer Nordgaard and their children Nolan and Lauren, Jack Sonsalla and Sam Sonsalla.

Berra is also survived by his godparents, Joe and Ann Berra; his closest second cousins, Ed and Kristin Berra and their children Erika and Kevin Trussoni, Kirsten and Cole Uhl, Maggie, Emily, and Matthew Berra; his special friend, Tia Schott; and many additional relatives and friends. Berra  was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents James and Lucille Berra.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Blessed Sacrament Church, 130 Losey Blvd. S., La Crosse, WI on Sunday, Oct. 3,  at 4:30 p.m. The Rev. Peter Raj will officiate. Visitation will be from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, at the church as well.

A celebration of Berra’s life will be held in the Parish Hall with food and refreshments following Mass until 8 p.m. A private burial will be in the St. Charles Catholic Cemetery in Genoa, WI, at a later date. The Blaschke & Schneider Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. The memorials are preferred to a Scholarship Fund that has been established for Agricultural Engineering Technology students at UWRF or to the Aquinas Catholic Schools Foundation.

Online condolences may be made at

Students may schedule an appointment with Counseling Services by stopping in 254 Rodli Hall or by calling (715) 425-3884. Student Health and Counseling Services provides online resources for coping with tragedy, trauma and death.