Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Matt Fyalka

Matthew Paul Fyalka Dec. 14, 1979-July 13, 2008 Matt, Matthew, Maneuw: Our Love, son, brother, nephew, cousin and friend. Today, we lost his smile, his wit, his laughter, his love. July 13, 2008: Matt was tragically lost to an automobile accident, leaving one of his elk scouting spots. Matt Fyalka was undoubtedly connected to the outdoors. He was a bit of a Fir, a moment at sunrise and the call of anything wild, including himself. He will live on through memories: a "Grizzly" hug, an "Avalanche" grin, laughter that rolled over rocks like his waded rivers, a mountainous heart that encompassed us all. Matthew will forever reflect in the majesty that surrounds us. Matt echoes in mountains, bugles with elk, glances in silver rivers, stops our ears with rain (like his wet-willies), dusts our face with snow. Matt will whisper each morning an affirmation: "Live it, Love it, Share it.", and we will continue one We will miss you, Buddy. Matt is survived by his "hero": father, Paul Fyalka; his step-mother, Sharon Fyalka; his mother: Robin Fink; his Love: Jenn Strickling; his brother: Jacob Fyalka; his sister: Tashia Heckard; his grandparents: Robert and Elaine Fyalka; maternal grandmother: Ann White, uncles, aunties, a herd of cousins, friends, and his dog: Trigger. Please, join us in a celebration of his life: Memorial Reception- Date: Saturday, July 19th, 2008 at 2:00 PM Location: 8111 Waller Rd.

This has been an ongoing trend for many young men from Puyallup schools in my age range. I remember the first time that a fellow student passed away that I personally knew. His name was Kevin Jackowski and he and I were always cool with each other. We were both in choir and, sadly, made fun of the same people. I still remember how the entire event played out as if it happened yesterday. Our teacher stepped into class and looked at all of us for about 15 seconds in total and complete silence. "Class, I have something very important to say to you. Our fellow classmate and friend, Kevin Jackowski, died in a tragic car accident over the weekend. If any of you need help in grieving, the school counselor has set aside additional time to help many of you during this difficult process. We should all remember Kevin and pray for his family". For the first time in my life someone I knew had died. It wasn't a grandparent, one of my parents, or even one of my close family members. This was a young man, much like myself at that time. It was at that time that I remember understanding how truly delicate our life really is and how quickly it can be taken away from us. From what we all knew, Kevin was in the back of a truck bed when it rolled over, thus crushing him. I don't know if this is actually what happened, but I never doubted it until I experienced another loss later in my high school years.
In the 8th grade, it happened again. I had a young man in my history class whom I joked around with and discussed music and girls from time to time. His name was Jessie Smith. He was fairly tall and was built like a football player. He and I were on the 7th and 8th grade football teams at Aylen Junior High. When I think of Jessie, I always remember his braces when he smiled. He was, from my recollection, a well mannered young man with a good head on his shoulders. However, I, like most people at school, were way off in our judgment of Jessie. I came to school one day and I was suddenly approached by my group of friends asking me if I had heard about Jessie Smith. I told them that I hadn't heard anything and to tell me because I knew it was killing them to tell me. "Jessie killed himself last night. Apparently shot himself in the head". At that very moment, I learned that not only were young men like me vulnerable to death by auto accidents, but by fragile emotional states as well. Nobody, including me, ever saw how truly sad Jessie was and how much he had going on in his personal life. The only thing that I remember about Jessie is that he was having a hard time dealing with his Dad either dying or actually being dead. I'm not 100% sure on which one that it was, but I'm more certain that it was about his Dad who was dying of cancer. Jessie Smith, a young and vibrant young man had taken his own life for reasons that many of us didn't understand and will probably never understand. Jessie's suicide took place right after I had fully recovered from Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994. The day that I heard about Kurt dying was one of the worst days of my life. I mourned his death for nearly a year. I was fairly advanced when it came to music. I started listening to music from the older kids' generation starting in the 6th grade beginning with the Beastie Boys and Duran Duran. How many 6th graders do you know who even know who Duran Duran are? My Dad noticed how much stress I was going through and how depressed I had become because of Kurt's untimely death. I remember him telling me how pathetic of a man Kurt was for being greedy and taking his own life. He told me that he should have considered how his fans, especially the younger ones like me, would take his death. I remember a lot of memories from that period of my life, but from what my Mom has told me, I struggled quite heavily after Kurt's death.

By the time I had finished junior high, I had personally known 2 kids that had passed away. However, there were many, many more to come during my time at Puyallup High School.

The death that stands out the most to me during my days in high school are Aaron Duscharme and Justin Martinson. Justin was a close, personal friend of mine and we spent the night at each others houses and with mutual friends. He and my friend Travis were really into BMX racing and that is how we met. It was at one of the many sleep-overs that we had at Travis' house during 8th and 9th grade. Of course, many of us, including me, would make an extra effort to encourage Travis' younger sister to have a sleep-over the same night as we had ours. There were so many nights where we had pillow fights, hot tub conversations, and camping trips. Man, I still remember those days quite vividly.
Funny side story: I used to ride my bike over to Travis' house in the morning so that we could ride to school together. One morning, he was late getting ready. I told him that I had left a video game upstairs and that I was going to go grab it. In reality, I knew that his sister was in the shower and her room was right next to his. Well, my one and only attempt as a "peeping Tom" worked. I had strategically placed myself behind his door that had an angle that I could see into her room as well. I stood there refusing to breathe and she walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her. I remember her taking off the towel and standing there...naked. There has never been a "peeping Tom" experience better than the one that I was currently experiencing. To this day, not Travis or his sister know that I had done what I did. Do I regret it? Maybe. I, mean, what can I say? I was 13 or 14 and had raging hormones.
Back to the Justin story. I remember playing basketball and video games with Justin at his house which was about 2 or 3 blocks from Puyallup High School. I remember meeting his Dad, who was injured during the Vietnam War and was paralyzed from the waist down. He was the most motivated person I have ever met. Despite his physical setbacks, he excelled in wheelchair athletics and has several gold medals from the handicapped Olympics. In fact, he was the one who invented skies for people in wheelchairs and received a large chunk of money for his patent.
I remember his older brother and how much he looked like Justin. I think I met his sister once, too, but I'm unsure where or when that occurred. Justin's Mom, from my recollection, had either divorced his Dad or had passed away. All I know is that his Mom was never around and his Dad was single.
I saw Justin all throughout high school and we hung out less and less as time progressed. People fall into certain social groups and get separated by hobbies and music tastes. I fell into the jock scene, listened to hip-hop, and attracted a small portion of females. Justin, however, was still in the alternative music scene, rode his BMX and skateboard often, and attracted far more females than I. The last memory that I have of Justin was while I was working at Toys R Us. He came in and recognized me right away. I ran up to him, gave him some old school love, and gave him a hug. We talked about how our lives were, how our lives were after graduating from high school, and what we planned on doing with the rest of our lives. His hair had gotten much longer than what I remember it being and he was there getting something childish to play with. As he left, I waved to him not knowing that that was the last that I would ever see Justin alive. Shortly after that, Justin died in a car crash. I was told us that he had ran into a tree going roughly 70 mph. I was heartbroken and our little group of friends that had since grew apart, were once again brought together by the loss of one of our friends. It wasn't until I worked the night-shift at Tacoma General Hospital in the morgue that I found out the truth behind Justin's untimely death. I won't elaborate on it, but I cried for hours upon hours after reading what I wasn't supposed to be reading. I'll miss you Justin and every one of your chuckles and smiles that are engraved in my memory forever. I still regret reading the truth about his death, but at the same time, I'm glad I did read it.

The funniest thing that I remember about playing football was what Aaron Ducharme did to me. We were watching scrimmage footage that my (still) good friend David was filming for his 9th grade project. Aaron got the ball on a sweep and I was the pursuing linebacker coming in for a mid-level tackle. Aaron reached his hand out, grabbed my facemask, and threw me to the ground. The entire team laughed at the footage and I remember coach telling Aaron, "Man, that's funny as hell. But Aaron, you can't do that. It's a penalty. Poor Matt over there got to experience one of the easiest penalties to avoid. Aaron, from now on, be nice to Matt". He turned around and smiled at me so as to say, "Sorry man, but that was funny as hell". I had the Rudy reputation on that team because, although I was built like a football player, I was really short. Aaron always hung out with his fullback, Derek Keough. They were always cool with me, but never with the people that I hung around with...particularly Scott Maib.

I came home on March 9th, 1998 telling my Mom about a fight that was about to take place downtown and how much I wanted to go. The fight, as it went, was between the "skaters" and the "gangsters". My friend James wanted to go down there and help out the "gangsters" because James had and still has, to some degree, an anti-white complex. My Mom became worried and told neither of us to go and ran us down to rent a movie to keep us occupied.

The next day, all hell broke loose. The second I walked onto campus, there were news crews all over the campus. Not knowing what happened, I refused to discuss anything with any of the news crews. My friend James walked up to me and told me that Aaron had died last night during the fight that we both wanted to go watch. Apparently, a friend of mine for a number of years, Jeffrey Pennick, got into a fist fight with Aaron in a parking lot. Each person had roughly 5 or 6 friends each behind them cheering them on. What Aaron and everyone else didn't know was that Jeff had something up his sleeve...literally. While fighting, Jeff had pulled out a knife and had stabbed Aaron over 18 times in the face, head, and neck. Aaron shortly after and Jeff received 23 years in prison for his crime. I always hung out with Jeff and I had to witness a friend of mine being taken away to prison.

Jeff and I first met in 5th grade shortly after he arrived in Puyallup. I went over to my friend Shawna Needham's place to hang out with her and her brother Ryan. When I showed up, there was a black kid there. Now, you have to understand how rare black people were in Puyallup in the 90s. We started talking and Jeff managed to talk how great of a fighter he was. I called him out on it and we ended up fighting, with boxing gloves on, in Ryan's front yard.

I ended up having 5th and 6th grade with Jeff. In 5th grade, we had some beef. We would always play each other at basketball and challenge each other. One day, things reached a boiling point. Jeff was unable to play basketball because he has broken his hand/wrist a few weeks ago after a bike accident. Something happened and words were exchanged between he and I. I ended up calling him a "pussy". Jeff immediately got into my face and we both glared at each other for about 15 seconds. He then stepped back and hit me with his casted hand. After getting hit, I just glared at him until it was time to go into class. I didn't say a word to anyone for the rest of the day. After class, Jeff walked up to me in the hall and apologized for hitting me. I told him that I was sorry for calling him a "pussy" and we shook hands and hugged. After that, we were pretty close friends.

We hung out quite often and I started to get in my "I'm white, but I feel black phase" of my life. We would hang out, listen to gangsta rap, and chill. In 6th grade, he and I were voted "class clowns" and there was a picture of him laughing and me hanging upside down on a chain-link fence making a hand sign that had grown to become a class joke...the Jason Kidd triangle. I made the sign and made the goofy noise during the picture. Jeff had the biggest laugh on his face and that is the way that I will always remember Jeff. Even after he brutally stabbed Aaron, I only remember his softer, funny side.

Aaron was a huge loss to our school and put our school into the spotlight. During my senior year, we had news crews on campus for roughly 2 weeks during what was called the "race case". Because of the low number of black kids at Puyallup High School, many of them felt singled out and not taken seriously. A few things happened and the Thomas family ended up suing the school district for $6 million dollars...which they ended up winning after a year or so of deliberation.

After high school, many more of my fellow Puyallup High School alums came to pass away: Billy Stocking, Brandon Sensky, Derek Keough, Jake McQuade, and Matt Fyalka.

I remember having a few classes with Matt Fyalka because he had to finish a few more classes in order to graduate, but not because he was a bad student. He was involved in another auto accident that had killed a couple of people and the others had a long road to recovery. Matt would stroll into class with that pimp-like strut and tell me to crack a freestyle. He and I would rap in class to each other and it would piss the hell out of our English teacher. I remember him sitting next to Ryan and telling him to tell "the story". Ryan told him, "no way, dude. It's funny, but only to you and me". Matt told him that it was a great story for everyone to hear. It was about Ryan getting back at a teacher.

Ryan got into trouble and was forced to stay after school to discuss things with his history teacher Miss Beal. She told him to stay in the class and to feed her fish while she left to grab some coffee from the lounge. What Ryan did was one of the funniest things I have ever heard. Instead of feeding Miss Beal's fish fish-food, he masturbated into the fish bowl. Apparently she never questioned what he did. After Ryan finished that story, Matt and I were rolling on the ground laughing. I, at the time, had Miss Beal and how much she loved her fish. That was a great moment.

I remember running into his grandparents while I was working at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, WA. I noticed their last name and asked them if they were related to Matt. They told me that he was their grandson. They went on to tell me how proud they were of him and how he was pursuing a degree in forestry from the University of Montana in Missoula (he did graduate with a bachelor's degree in forestry). They told me how proud they were that he chose to stay motivated in his career while still doing what he loved. I gave them a hug and wished them well. They were glad to meet someone who their grandson had touched and I was glad to learn a little bit more about him.

Matt always had a smile on his face and was a guy very few could find a reason to dislike. Besides, who would want to? Matt was a warm soul with the ability to find the goodness in everyone that he met. He loved the forest, he loved nature, he loved people, he loved his family and friends, and he loved life. Matt touched a lot of lives during his 28 years on this planet including mine. Rest in peace Matt.


3carrie said...


Matt said...

Jesse died in highschool. Shortly after Aaron died.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Rosebud888 said...

This post is wayyy old i realize and i also realize that you will prob never see my response to ur post but im stoned and thinking of those days so i typed in my brothers name and this is what popped up and im gonna write wether anyone sees or not just in case one day u ever check this even though u posted this long time ago. I went to aylen and puyallup a little and i remember hearing about every one of those devastating losses.. Aaron d.. I remember going in my brothers room and having to tell him the news.. He was a close friend of my brothers and to tell my brother that .. It just broke my heart..puyallup lost so many young sweet felt like every month someone was calling to say that one of our friends died tragically... Thank u for writing this, im sitting in my room after fourteen hour work shift, stoned.. Sad... And missing my brother exactly like the day i lost him... That feeling never goes away... We get through the days a little more easy over time but that feeling...its always there.. Every detail my brain didnt block... I will always remember it like it was yesterday...i will still wake up sometimes thinking it was a bad dream then going through the pain of realizing that it really was name is Carly.. and Jake McQuade is my brother... He was an amazing person, amazing artist, amazing skater, amazing friend, brother son cousin grandson... All of these boys were wonderful people and tragic losses to anyone who knew them.. They r all missed everyday...thank u again, tonight.. I needed to find this post.

robbd81 said...

Just stumbled across this blog while wasting time at work. I remember all of these stories like it was yesterday. Amazing how many puyallup boys we lost over such a short time. I'm still living in puyallup today, still driving by all of the memorials left for the ones we lost. Sometimes it gets depressing, but then i think about the great times we had in the short time we were allowed. Robb D.