Dedicated student. Committed Christian. Aspiring businessman. Inquisitive thinker. Talented athlete. Goofball. Brother. Son. Friend.
In a million places and ways, Canby and the surrounding communities are mourning the tragic loss of 16-year-old Matthew Dewar, who was killed in a fatal car crash on South Mulino Road while driving two of his younger brothers to school at Country Christian Friday morning.
His quick thinking and reflexes likely saved his brothers’ lives, as he swerved at the last moment to direct the impact of the oncoming collision onto the driver’s side — a point his father, chiropractor and lifetime Canby resident David Dewar, made in a Facebook post the morning after the tragedy.
Like so many friends and family members who knew him, David remembered his eldest son’s strong Christian faith — saying it helps give him and his family peace in the midst of their unimaginable grief.
“Our saving grace is that we know Matthew is in paradise — not in pain or suffering,” he wrote. “If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior as Matthew did, then I urge you to seek him out so that you can have the same joy, peace, and assurance that he had.”
Matthew’s youth pastor at Bethany Evangelical Church, David Beauving, remembered a young man who rarely shied away from sharing his faith and the gospel message in which he believed so strongly — yet was never rude or unkind to anyone he interacted with.
“That was one of the things I really loved about Matthew: He was so bold and courageous about his faith, but simultaneously, he was one of the kindest teenagers I knew,” he said. “That can be a rare combination. He showed such maturity in that area for a 16-year-old that I would love to see in some Christians who are much older.”
Beauving said he couldn’t count the number of times Matthew thoughtfully asked him to be praying or thinking about someone else.
“He was always thinking of others,” he said. “He had such a heart for people. I remember him asking me, ‘How can we make youth a group of people who are really caring for each other? I don’t want us to just have fun. I want us to be a family like we’re really supposed to be.'”
Longtime family friend Beth Livingston Wamala still remembers the day his parents brought home their firstborn child. She described the sudden loss as a waking nightmare.
“I snuggled him as a baby and watched him grow through each stage,” she said. “I loved his silly spirit when he was a child. Always up for fun and adventure. But in the last couple years, I’ve watched him develop into a young man with a genuine heart for people and for God, a passion for life and a love for basketball.”
Matthew ran cross country for Canby his first two years before joining the team at Country Christian for his junior season. Friends disclosed that he had planned to rejoin his younger brother Andrew, a freshman, and his former teammates at Canby High next season so they could challenge for the Three Rivers League title.
“Matthew Dewar was a very likable, easy-going young man,” said Canby cross country coach Tom Millbrooke. “Matthew was coachable and a pleasure to work with. He was a friendly teammate. He got along with everyone he came in contact with. His smiling face and pleasant personality were a constant that I would look forward to each practice.”
Tom Axmaker, principal at Canby Christian, also had the privilege of coaching Matthew on the cross country team for the Molalla-area private school.
“He was a bright spot wherever he found himself,” he said. “He jumped right into everything that student life had to offer from friends to competitions to ‘sliming’ for a fundraiser to cheering for athletics and participating in them. Not only was he a good athlete, he had a tremendous work ethic.
“He knew how to inspire his teammates and set an example for them to follow – all while being his friendly self. But most of all, he lived his faith in Christ out loud. I never heard him speak negatively of anybody. No one ever questioned if he was a Christian or not. It was evident in everything he said and did.”
When it came to sports, though, basketball was the true first love for Matthew, who stood a gangly 6-foot-4.
“Now, he is in heaven playing basketball with Jesus, his uncle Chad that he never met here on earth and Kobe Bryant,” Wamala said. “But I grieve for the things that Matthew will miss here on earth. He was so excited to play basketball this season. He had his own business selling Nike shoes, and I looked forward to seeing what career path he would be led to.”
Matthew also had a well-known goofy streak. Friends recounted a good-natured prank they had been playing on him this month, leaving a pumpkin on his truck or front porch without him noticing — managing to dump 15 of the orange gourds on him over the course of three weeks.
“When we were taking these pictures, Matthew was being a goober and I remember him apologizing and saying he’d be more serious,” recalled family friend and photographer Beka Mutchler, who did a recent photoshoot with the Dewars.
“I remember editing them thinking how fun they would be to have really captured his funny, sweet and serious sides. He was a straight-A student who loved Jesus and took his job as a big brother very seriously. Kind, tender-hearted like his mom and dedicated to hard work and taking responsibility like his dad.”
Country Christian teacher Aaryn Peterson had Matthew in her first-period art class and was one of the first to notice his absence Friday morning.
“If I was going to say anything about Matthew, it would be that he was the best person I knew,” said Peterson. “He was capable of making people feel special. He had a kindness and compassion that was not just unusual; it was Christ-like. Matt was like sunshine. He was always smiling, he was always making sure others were laughing, he wanted everyone to be happy.”
She said Matthew would often spend free time in her classroom hanging out, visiting and creating.
“My classroom will feel empty without him there, but we are all fuller, better people because we knew Matt,” she said. “None of this makes sense to me, except that I know Matthew is in heaven and he’s playing one-on-one with Jesus. I am so grateful to know that truth.”
Jocie Wallbaum, whose sons were friends with Matthew, called him “an incredible young man who oozed Jesus from his pores.”
“My boys only knew him for a few months but he was one of their ‘bois,'” she recalled. “They bonded so easily. A heart as big as the ocean, a smile that lit up any room he entered, a friend to all and a deep lover of God. Matthew — thank you for being you.”
The Canby Cougar Dance Team dedicated its performance to Matthew’s memory during a competition Saturday. Senior captain Abigail Chaffee came up with the idea, and the team decided its modern dance routine would be the most appropriate.
“Our ‘story’ for modern is that we are all trying to find our place and where we belong,” head coach Jenn Chaffee explained. “We have groupings of dancers in different colors of shirts and we make a rainbow of sorts at the peak of our routine and everyone has found their place within the rainbow.
“I suggested this happy routine be dedicated to Matthew because I know he believed in God and rainbows are a reminder of the promise he made.”
The news of Matthew’s death was devastating to the team — and to his many friends at both Canby High and Country Christian.
“The team was very emotional on the floor during the dance, thinking of their friend and the loss for his family,” Chaffee said. “After they performed, we went back to our team room, and there were many tears and hugs. Matthew has left a positive legacy through his faith and character for everyone to reflect on. Our community will be profoundly impacted by his life.”
Bethany Church held an informal prayer gathering and remembrance for Matthew’s friends and fellow youth group members Saturday, while the Dewar family hosted friends and family for a night of healing and reminiscing.
“We had a great time remembering with his best friends,” David Dewar said. “Lots of stories you wouldn’t expect hearing from the kids until they were much older. We said no one would be held accountable.”
The Canby basketball team, which starts its season the week after Thanksgiving, is also planning to memorialize Matthew in several ways. His last name will be printed on the team’s warm-up shirts for the season and a “Play for Dewar” banner will be hung in the Cougars’ locker room.
What’s more, the team’s home opener on Friday, Dec. 3, vs. Sandy will be dedicated to his memory. Matthew played for the junior varsity team last year and JV2 as a freshman — and almost certainly would have tried out next year if he had indeed returned to CHS.
“Boys are taking it hard,” head coach Craig Evans said in a text message. “We spent the first half of practice as a program with time to talk and decompress. We are all shook up really bad right now. It’s going to take some time to recover.”
Family friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign in Matthew’s memory and to help cover funeral costs and other expenses. It had raised over $25,000 as of Monday afternoon.
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