May 16, 2011 — The World-Spectator
The tragedy happened over a year ago, but the town of Rocanville certainly has not forgotten.
Since his passing on April 17 of 2010, Matt Wilkie has been honored and remembered for the inspiring life he led. Matt’s passion for life has left a lasting impact on many, and his spirit is still very much alive in the community.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” says Matt’s father Bob Wilkie. “Everyone still talks of him in such a positive way and it just kind of gives you a feeling that you did something right when you were raising him.”
20-year-old Matt was killed in a car accident while driving home from a charity fundraiser last spring. Immediately after his death, the Wilkie family was showered with condolences and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community. Matt’s parents say that support has not let up since.
“The community has been very supportive and it has opened our eyes for sure,” says Bob Wilkie.
On the day of Matt’s accident, a number of loving messages were written on the goal posts at the Rocanville soccer field, and on a clear, calm night later that week, a large number of youth gathered on that same field to set off fire works to celebrate and remember the life of the young man. The dull pain of loss still remains one year later, and members of the community continue to offer their support.
This month, on May 28, the Rocanville soccer field will be renamed ‘Wilkie Field’ in honor of Matt and his love of soccer. A bench and sign will be placed near the field as a permanent tribute to his life.
“The bench is a cement bench that the family has commissioned and the bench will have a plaque in memory of Matthew,” says Sherry Ryan, who has been working to set up the memorial.
“Right after the passing of Matthew, my daughter wanted to do something to remember Matt,” says Ryan.
The Ryans tossed ideas back and forth, wondering what they could do, and landed on the idea of dedicating the park to Matt. Once the town of Rocanville agreed to the idea, the planning was underway. The sign is being painted by Darlene Strong, a local artist, and the unveiling will happen later this month. On May 28, at 2 p.m. the field will be dedicated, the bench and sign will be unveiled, and an afternoon of soccer on ‘Wilkie field’ will follow.
The afternoon games will be played in memory of the young man who lived, slept, and breathed the outdoor sport. Everyone is invited to come to the event and take to the field—remembering Matt, while playing the sport he loved most. The Wilkies feel the dedication of the soccer field is a very suiting way to keep Matt’s memory alive.
“It obviously is something that was important to him— it was his life being out there on that field,” says Bob Wilkie. “And between Norma and myself and the kids around here, we just thought it was a fitting tribute to him.”
When asked what Matt would think of the dedication, Bob Wilkie answers with a chuckle.
“I honestly think he’d be embarrassed,” he says. “I’m sure he would feel honored, but he would be more or less embarrassed about the whole thing. He would rather just get out there and kick the ball around.”
So Matt will be happy to know that the field and bench are intended to be a spot where people in the community can come to not only remember him, but remember other lives lost too.
“The park will be named in Matthew’s honor, but if anyone wanted to plant a tree in someone else’s honor or plant flowers or set up a bench or a picnic table in someone else’s honor, they could. So it will be for more than just Matt . . . it’s for anybody who has had a loss,” says Ryan. “It would just be a place for somebody to come and memorialize somebody they had lost.”
Since that fateful day last April, Ryan says people have been remembering Matt in their own ways. The pen marks may have faded, and the fireworks have dissolved, but the memories are still alive. And soon, a permanent monument will exist to commemorate a young man who will be always remembered and forever missed by the community.