Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A sudden goodbye and a sudden change of mind

When I joined the Cleveland Jewish News staff in October of 2005, I did so with the knowledge that I would be taking a very big chance. I would be leaving behind all of my friends and social connections in New Orleans to take up roots in a community of which I knew very little. The fact the CJN was a Jewish newspaper made the prospect seem a bit more reassuring, but it was a giant leap of faith to be certain. Among the members of the staff who made me feel at home was a quiet, tall figure who worked in the Production Department as a graphics designer. His name was Matthew Narby, but everyone called him Matt. Matt had started working at the newspaper in 2004, the year before I arrived. Like the late Tim Russert, he was a native of Buffalo and had graduated from State University of New York before moving to live and work in Cleveland. Prior to joining the CJN staff as a member of the production team, he had worked as a production manager and graphics designer at Trader Publishing as well as a designer at a nearby Kinko's. A devout Catholic, in his spare time Matt wrote children's books and taught religion classes at St. Clare's parish in nearby Lyndhurst. The ever-present smile he wore and his general demeanor always suggested he was happy. I recall Matt as a tireless morning reader of the Plain Dealer. He was an inveterate sports enthusiast who followed the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cleveland Indians and the Buffalo Sabers with a passion. He had an amazing head for sports trivia and kept his mind active during periods of downtime at work through a series of mental gymnastics, which always meant solving the daily crossword puzzle. Sometimes I even supplied a word or two in Matt's quest to finish the task. I really liked Matt as a fellow co-worker and found his unbending spirit refreshing. He was never without an opinion on sports or politics, but he mostly kept to himself and concentrated on his work. Perhaps it was because of his deep-seated religious background and compassion, he always seemed concerned with me as to what progress or lack thereof I could tell him about restoring my damaged home in New Orleans. Recently, Matt submitted a book review on a historical novel that was published in the CJN's March 28 edition. A dedicated husband and father, Matt was often on the phone with his loving wife Tara or conversing after school let out with his two daughters, Victoria and Grace. He worked hard through the day, but when it was time to go, he headed out through the door with a twinkle in his eye, making way for his home in South Euclid. In short he was a mensch, a Yiddish term for a responsible adult. Despite his being Catholic, it is a badge I believe he would bear with honor. Matt rarely missed a day of work due to illness, although he kept a mighty big secret from staff members; he had a congenital heart defect that put his life at risk. This past Sunday that big heart of Matt's suddenly and unexpectedly gave out. He was only 35. Like all of the CJN staff, I will mourn his loss and offer my deepest sympathies to his surviving family members.

Meanwhile, Governor Bobby Jindal acted like a responsible adult yesterday when he suddenly changed his mind, after saying he wouldn't, and vetoed the whopping pay increase that Louisiana state legislators had voted for themselves. The veto kills any chance that the measure can be considered again this year. It also derails the recall petition that had been launched two days prior, precipitated by angry voters who demanded he take such action.


J Wo said...

Dear Alan,
That was a beautiful tribute to our dear friend Matt. Thank you for taking the time to write such a touching piece. Matt was loved by many and will be missed so much by all that knew him.
Jennifer Woomer

robrichtx said...

Alan - you definitely got Matt right. He was a lifelong friend of mine, and I just got the news. I googled his name to find any info on the web about this. Thank you for honoring his memory in a proper fashion.
- Rob Rich

Suswan said...

Lucky for you that your path crossed with Matt's. He sounds like the kind of person I would have liked to meet.

Hi Alan,
It's Susan from Music Lovers...I just popped in to see what was going on here.

zippogeek said...

Alan, thank you for your kind recollection of Matt. I was stunned to hear of his passing. Sadly, he's the first alum lost from Canisius High School's Class of 1990 (far too soon). I remember riding the chair lift with Matt on Friday nights during ski club. He was such a nice kid.

Shalom from Buffalo,
-Jason Maier