Matt would have been truly humbled by the outpouring of remembrance that has been given to him over this last year. It was a lifelong dream of Matt’s to become a firefighter. He was told early on in his life that‚ because of allergies‚ he would not be able to become a firefighter‚ but that did not stop him. Matt joined the fire service because he truly believed in helping people and LOVED the profession.
He joined the Kankakee Township Fire Protection District in October 1991 and worked his way from the rank of firefighter to be appointed fire chief in 2003. As a 17-year member of the department‚ Matt obtained numerous fire certifications‚ including Certified Firefighter III‚ Fire Apparatus Engineer‚ Vertical 1 Ops‚ Firefighter Instructor 2‚ Confined Space Rescue‚ Trench Ops‚ Vehicle Machinery Operations‚ HAZMAT Technician 2‚ HAZMAT Advisor‚ CPR/First Aid Instructor and had recently obtained his Fire Officer 1. Matt was also a past president of both the Kankakee Valley Tactical Rescue Team and the Kankakee Township Firefighters’ Association. He served on the governance committee for the Kankakee Valley Fire Academy‚ where he had been an instructor since its inception in 1999.
Matt was hired by the Kankakee Area Career Center in August 2003 as the fire/rescue instructor. Through Matt’s involvement with the career center‚ he was able to bring to numerous students the joy and compassion that comes with being a firefighter. While with the career center‚ Matt was a SkillsUSA Advisor and a National SkillsUSA contest advisor. Through his instruction‚ Matt was able to have students compete on the national level for the first time in June 2007. He also served as a contest supervisor at the state level. In addition‚ Matt served on the I-KAN Emergency Response and Crisis Management Project Leadership Team. He worked on behalf of improving school safety by implementing the red and green cards that are now present in classrooms across Kankakee and Iroquois County.
On February 1‚ 2008‚ while attending a fire department meeting‚ Matt was stricken with a heart attack after shoveling snow at the fire station. He died on February 7‚ 2008‚ surrounded by family‚ friends‚ students‚ coworkers‚ and fellow firefighters from the community.
His laugh was contagious and brought a smile to everyone he met. He lived his life to its fullest with no regrets. Remember the laughter and lessons; don’t dwell on the tears. That would be the best way to remember Matt.