Matthew Alan Gfeller was a passionate young man from an early age. He was a natural leader who was comfortable on stage singing or giving a speech, rallying his friends for a great adventure, planning the next vacation with his brother and sister, or leading his team onto the field.
He was an idea man and a goal setter. His handwritten athletic goals were taped to his bedroom door and bathroom mirror, as daily reminders to motivate himself. Matthew was a kind brother and a loyal friend and as one peer put it, “Matt had no set criteria on who should be his friend.” As a result, Matthew loved and enjoyed people of all ages and from many different circles.
“Matthew was a performer. Whether he was sharing a poem in class, barking orders as a drill sergeant before a pep rally, or making us laugh in the talent show, we loved watching Matt. He made us smile,” said Summit School’s drama teacher, Loma Hopkins. “In the Wizard of Oz, Matthew was one of the biggest munchkins you’ve ever seen. In 8th grade, he performed with his sister Haley in Annie Get your Gun. Who can forget their wonderful portrayals as Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley? And then as Conrad Birdie, in Bye Bye Birdie. He certainly had never thought of himself as the Elvis type. But then, the magic happened. He shimmied, he crooned and all the girls swooned. When the reviews came out, the audience and Matthew agreed that we had made the right choice.”
A fisherman and lover of the outdoors, Matthew brought enthusiasm, humor and dedication to Boy Scout Troop 920. As he pursued his journey to Eagle Scout, Matthew loved working with other scouts, overnight hiking and camping, and cooking by the campfire. Matthew started Scouting as a Tiger Cub and achieved his Eagle Scout rank in May of 2008.
Matthew grew up a huge football fan, specifically cheering for the Oklahoma Sooners. Both Matthew and his brother Robbie began playing football with the Pop Warner League for the Southfork Panthers. As he grew both in size and love of the game, football became one of his passions. His positions on the offensive line and at inside linebacker fit both his size and strength. In middle school Matthew set his goal to make the RJ Reynolds Varsity squad as a sophomore and to start at linebacker. He achieved this goal telling his fellow Reynolds players, “I won’t let you down.” RJR Coach Mike Propst, said that Matt would come to the Reynolds’ weight room to work out with his brother in seventh grade. “He has always been ‘The One That’s Coming,’ at Reynolds and he was,” Propst said.
When Matthew was around, energy filled the air. Whether he was planning his next dining experience, or talking through his training plans with his family, he was excited and ready for action. Matthew had a special connection to all of his grandparents and extended family and loved hearing stories of their youthful adventures, always wanting to incorporate some of their traditions into his own. Matthew and his grandmother, Mimi took special trips to Spain and Washington, D.C. and he toured Alaska and Italy with his other grandparents and family.
On August 22, 2008 Matthew suffered a severe helmet to helmet collision during his first varsity football game. It was in the fourth quarter of the game when he was playing right inside linebacker. Tragically, the accident caused a fatal traumatic brain injury. Matthew never regained consciousness and died two days later on Sunday, August 24, 2008.
In closing, the words Matthew’s Uncle Jay spoke at his funeral seem especially appropriate,
“God gently cradled our sweet Matthew into his hands on a Sunday. No child could be more loved. No parents could be more proud. No hearts could be more anguished. Matthew – Eagle Scout, singer, sportsman, roller coaster enthusiast – lover of his fellow man with a heart as big as his head. His spirit envelopes … lifts…. consumes us all with optimism, vulnerability, innocence, grace, and love. We covet our time with him. We remember him as he would want – a vessel of goodness and hope radiating love for those around him. May we all endeavor to effect his love on the world as we remember him for all of our days.”
Matthew was blessed to have entered and exited this world surrounded by those he loved and those who loved him. His spirit lives on in our hearts and he will be remembered for living his life with great courage and passion, unparalleled in his dedication to faith, family, friends, food and football. The Matthew Alan Gfeller Foundation hopes to positively impact the lives of other young people in Matthew’s memory.
Matthew Alan Gfeller
March 14, 1993 – August 24, 2008