With memory after memory Friday morning, laughter broke through the tears of nearly 100 mourning members of the Loyola University community as they remembered a carefree student, fiercely devoted to his loved ones, whose life was cut unexpectedly short last month in a fatal crash on St. Charles Avenue.
“Look around. Look at your friends,” said Andy Scott at a memorial service for 23-year-old Matthew Chuey. “How many did Chuey introduce you to? Everyone loved him. He made friends everywhere that he went.”
Chuey, who was in the process of finishing a business degree at Loyola, stepped onto St. Charles Avenue near Toledano around 2:30 a.m. July 26 when he was hit by a vehicle driven by 44-year-old Leonard Feller, who was drunk at the time, police have said. The tragic circumstances of Chuey’s death were barely mentioned Friday morning, however, as his friends focused on his fun-loving spirit and his loyalty to his friends.
That was exactly how Chuey would have had it, said Scott, reflecting on Chuey’s character during the memorial service. Scott praised Chuey’s guidance in life, and said it extended even beyond death to a pact they had made together.
“If either of us passed away, the other would tell our family and friends not to mourn our loss, but to celebrate the great times we had together,” Scott said, calling his friend the “linchpin” that held many people at Loyola together.
The students who spoke at the memorial all shared stories of Chuey’s misadventures and his caring. Rachael Otis described her ill-advised decision to go out one night before a big exam, despite Chuey’s insistence that she shouldn’t. The next morning, 20 minutes before the test, she woke up to find Chuey had come back — waking her up to make sure she got to class in time for the exam.
“Chuey lived an amazing life for the short time he was here with us,” Otis said.
Likewise, Katie Gilmore said that once when she was going through a period of intense distress, Chuey skipped a test of his own to stay with her and talk her through her problems.
“He didn’t want to see any of his friends upset,” Gilmore said. “He cared so much. He just put everyone else before himself.”
A slide show of photos of Chuey showed his humorous side, depicting him in wigs and fake mustaches, or with short video clips of him putting on fake accents or even imitating a pterodactyl. In nearly every photo, Chuey has his arm slung around his friends — most of the time with comical expressions on his face that repeatedly drew laughter from the mourners.
“I’m really going to miss seeing him on those special occasions when you didn’t expect it,” said one friend, Sarah Teague, who described her joy at finding him “like a puppy” in the neutral ground during one Mardi Gras. “I’m so, so sorry. He left a great part of himself in my heart.”
University faculty and staff also took part the service, including Bill Locander, dean of the College of Business, and Len Trevino, one of his professors.
“I had great hopes for Matthew because I knew he would be successful in life,” Trevino said. “I don’t remember all my students, but I won’t forget Matthew Chuey.”
Chuey’s father was the only family member who spoke, thanking Chuey’s friends for their words and memories, and exhorting them to continue doing the “good things” that Chuey would have wanted. From Berwyn, Pa., Chuey was one of six siblings, all of whom traveled to Loyola for the memorial as well, in addition to other family members — an unusually large representation for a student not from the area, said Kurt Bindewald, dean of university ministry.
For the mourners, the conversational-style service may have brought some healing, Bindewald suggested. There is sometimes a myth that talking about such a tragedy can make it worse, Bindewald said as he closed out the service, when in fact the opposite is true.
“I encourage you to keep talking,” Bindewald said, “to keep sharing your memories of Matthew.”