Matthew William Beard - Online Memorial Website

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Matthew Beard
Born in Pennsylvania
21 years
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Life story
January 20, 1985

miss you

A thousand words can not bring you back,

I know because I tried.

A million tears can not bring you back,

I know because I cried....

~author unknown


Matthew was born on January 20, 1985 in Philadelphia, PA in the middle of an ice storm.  It took quite a while for Matt to be born but when he got here there was never a happier child from day one.  It was always just me and Matt.  He was my world.  He is my world.  After Matt's second winter in Pennsylvania I had enough of the snow and ice and decided to move to Florida where my parents, Matthew's grandparents, already lived. 

Matthew thrived here.  And his grandparents loved having him here so close.  Matt was always extremely driven.  He loved school, hated missing a day for any reason.  I can't remember one time ever having to tell him to do his homework.  But at the same time Matt loved to play and have fun.  He got in trouble in 2nd grade for being class clown.  The teacher said he was so funny she would have to turn her back to the class so they didn't see her laughing, however, the other children did not know how to settle back down.  :-O   Yes, my son was amazing but like every other child certainly not perfect.  He won many awards in school, there was never a time I wasn't so proud of my son.  He played baseball, his favorite position was catcher and  there weren't many his age better than him on the field playing that position.  However, he wasn't the best once you put a bat in his hand!  But, no matter what position Matthew played he gave it his all.  As he got a bit older he played roller hockey, his Uncle Glenn coached his team.  Before long Matt was as good as many of the kids that had been playing for quite a few years.  He made the All Star Team.  His drive was second to none.

When Matt was in middle school we moved to a different town in Florida where they have not only one of the best school systems in the state but in the country.  Matt may have been the son of a single mom but that was never an obstacle.  He had everything he needed and nothing stopped him and he always knew he could achieve anything.  He deserved the best education and I was determined that he would have that.  And he did.   He played lacrosse all four years of high school and loved it, creating what for him became lifelong friends.  Creating for those same young men a lifelong friend that they lost tragically way too soon. 

Matt continued to excel in school.  He also worked at the local PetSmart where he developed his love for aquatics which became his passion.  He also purchased his first vehicle, a 1995 Ford Ranger with the money he saved from his job.  He continued to drive the Ranger until right before he died.  Matthew continued his education at Florida State University where he double majored in biology and philosophy.  He went to school on total scholarship.  He told me, "Mom, while the government is paying for my education I am going to take full advantage of it."  And he certainly did.  There was never a semester that he didn't make the Dean's List which to him was no big deal, that was not enough for Matt.  There was always more to achieve.   He lived in a scholarship house where for the last couple of years he was the president of the house.  Matthew was a friend to all who knew him. Matthew was described to me by one of his friends as one of the most genuine people he has ever known. And that he was.  Genuine, loyal, funny, inspiring, committed, driven, passionate, honest, loving, brilliant, modest, happy...I could go on and on. Also attending the same college was his longtime girlfriend and high school sweetheart, Lucy.  She was double majoring in Mass Communications and Spanish.  Matt always said that Lucy was the female version of him.  I still cry to this day when I think about how much love the two of them had for each other.  A love that is so rare.  And mature beyond their years. 

Matt had chosen to become a marine biologist.  After college his plans were to go to grad school were he would get his Masters and PHD.  His plans were to go to either the University of Miami or James Cook University in Australia.  Australia was always a dream of his.  After all, that is where the Great Barrier Reef is located.   The summer before Matthew's senior year of college, the summer of 2006,  he got an internship at NOAA (The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration)  in the Florida Keys.   I can't begin to express how much Matt loved the time he spent there.  The work he did.  The people he worked with.  While there he did research on two different species of threatened corals, the first ever listed as threatened by the government.  And this was Matthew's passion.  Coral reef research. This is what he planned on doing with his life.  While interning at NOAA Matt made an amazing research discovery with the coral reefs that may go a long way in saving the reefs in our oceans.  Research that NOAA is continuing with.  Research that there is much excitement about.  At just 21 years of age he achieved this.  There is no telling what else Matthew would have achieved.  What Matt would have been able to do for our oceans.   Matt had a favorite professor at FSU, Dr William Herrnkind, his students all call him Doc. Matt didn't talk about many of his professors but couldn't say enough about Doc.  Doc was truly Matt's mentor.  Matt told me how Doc used to work with Jacques Cousteau.  How Doc did this and Doc did that and how amazing Doc was.  After Matt died I heard stories about what Doc said about Matt.  That he told Matt that one day he was going to be "semi-famous".  That he would try to bleed all over Matt's papers just to try to find something wrong with them.  

I always said, since Matthew was a little boy, that I was put on this earth to bring him here.  Because he was going to make a difference in the world.  At that point, I didn't know how, I didn't know what he would do, but I knew there was something about him that was going to make a difference.  And he did. 

Matthew came home from school on winter break of his senior year.  He came home on December 19, 2006.  He was so glad to be home, he had an especially hard semester and had spent just about every night in the Strosier Library studying until the early hours of the morning.  Matt was a surfer and his plans to go to California surfing over their break were canceled.  Although Matt was very disappointed, as he always did, he made the best of it and decided to drive down with his best friend and his best friend's brother to West Palm Beach to meet up with some of his friends from SCUBA at FSU to go diving for a couple of days.  They left on the evening of December 21, 2006 around 7:00 PM.



Instead of receiving a phone call from Matt that he had arrived at his destination, I received the call that every parent dreads. I was told that a drunk driver had crashed into the back of the car Matt was riding in and that he had been airlifted to the hospital, to Delray Medical Center.  Matt and his two friends were stuck in traffic on I-95 in West Palm Beach when a vehicle traveling at an extremely high speed crashed into the back of their car causing it to spin and hit the concrete median. Thankfully, Matthew's friends were okay physically.  Matt was the only one injured.  He was in the back seat wearing his seatbelt. I frantically searched for someone to take me down to South Florida to get to my son.  The three hour trip was the longest three hours of my life.  I arrived at the hospital to find Matthew in Trauma ICU in a coma hooked up to a respirator.  The young man who was always so full of life, who told me when I told him to slow down a bit, “Mom, I live life”, couldn’t even breathe on his own.  Matt’s sternum was fractured, his spleen ruptured, his lung collapsed, but worst of all, was the severe brain injury.  He had a bolt in the top of his head to relieve the pressure to his brain.  I had to make that decision in the car on the way to my son, praying I would get to him in time.  Did I want them to put a bolt in his head?  "Just save my baby's life!" was all I could think.   Matthew's injuries were all internal.  There wasn't a scratch on him.  After days of waiting and never once giving up hope, I was told that my beautiful, brilliant son was brain dead.  Seven days after receiving "the phone call" my world ended. Matthew died on 12/29/06 at 12:33 AM.  Just like a parent never forgets the birth of their child, the exact moment they came into the world, I will never forget the exact moment my son left this world.  There is nothing worse and no pain more excruciating.

I will never again hear my son’s voice, hear his laugh, see his beautiful face, hug him, and anxiously await his phone calls home, his visits home.  I will never hear anyone call me “Mom” again.  I will never have grandchildren.  The drunk driver took all of that away.  He took away the extremely promising future of a young man that was getting ready to start his life as a marine scientist.  The drunk driver took away Matt’s future, my future, and affected the lives of so many - lives that will never be the same.

As Terrance R. Redding PhD of West Palm Beach wrote in response to the article written about Matthew in the Orlando Sentinel:

“It is such a loss when someone as well liked and bright as Matt passes so early in life.  The positive difference he was making has been cut short.  It is a loss to his family and those who knew him.  But it is also a loss to the nation and the world – which would have benefited from his longer life well led.”

Matthew had many different scuba diving certifications.  His most recent was for cavern diving.  He got his certification in cavern diving the weekend before the crash.  I remember asking him why he had to dive in caverns, that it seemed so dangerous and he didn’t really need it for his coral reef research.  He said to me, “Mom, it’s a different world down there.  It’s beautiful.”  His girlfriend, Lucy, asked him the same thing, also worried about him diving in caves and caverns, although she is a diver herself.  He replied to her, “Lucy, you need to worry more about me on the roads with these crazy drivers than diving in caves.”  A couple of days later one of those crazy drivers crashed into the car Matt was riding in ultimately causing his death. 

Matt and Lucy both graduated on April 27, 2007.  Although they had both been double majors, Lucy a Spanish and Mass Communications Major and Matthew a Biology and Philosophy Major, they both had enough credit hours to graduate with a degree in one major since neither were able to return to school for their final semester. Lucy graduated with a degree in Spanish and Matt with a degree in Biology and a certificate in Marine Biology.  Both graduated Magna Cum Laude, Matt graduated with honors in his major.  I proudly watched Lucy walk and accept her degree.  At the same time it was so incredibly hard to attend as Matt received the degree he worked so very hard for posthumously.  The president of Florida State spoke about Matt and his accomplishments in front of over 15,000 people at the civic center.  Once again I was so very proud of my son but not understanding why he wasn't there walking across the stage, accepting his diploma that he worked so very hard for along with all of the other students.  Why? 

Matthew's story doesn't end here. I refuse to let it end here. Although I anxiously wait for the day that I can once again be reunited with my son, while I am stuck here I have to be Matt's voice.  I can not and will not let this drunk driver, this person who made a decision to get on the road and make his car a weapon that night (as no doubt he had done many, many times previously) no different than had he fired a gun into a crowd, win.  My son was his chosen victim that night. The 21 year old drunk driver was arrested on January 31, 2007 for killing Matt and he remains in the Palm Beach County Jail on $250,000 bail awaiting trial.  I can't do the work with the coral reefs that my son was doing, he has a research partner at NOAA, Ben, that I trust to keep that alive but I will do everything in my power to keep Matt's memory alive - because if not me then who? And I will do everything in my power to speak out about drunk driving so that perhaps another mother, another parent, does not have to live this 100% preventable daily nightmare. 

I still wait for my son to walk through the door.  But he never does.  He never will.

Matt, I am so proud to have been your Mom for almost 22 years and forever.  I want you to always know that I love you as high as the sky and as deep as the ocean.  You will always ALWAYS be my world, my hero.  Until then.....

I love you more,  



December 29, 2006
Passed away on December 29, 2006.
December 19, 2008


On December 19, 2008, exactly two years from the date Matt came home from college for Christmas break and two days shy of two years to the day of the crash that would take his life, the sentencing was held in Palm Beach County for Mauricio Gomez, the drunk driver that chose to kill Matthew.  He received 12 years, almost 2 of which have been already served in the Palm Beach County Jail which leaves him with approximately 10 years.  He only has to serve 85% of that time.  He will be out walking free in about 8 1/2 years.  Matt will still be dead.  I was sentenced to life.  Gomez' driver's license was also revoked for life.  That means nothing.  Most people drive on suspended and revoked licenses.  He possibly may be deported back to Columbia.  The judge said he could be deported.  However, in this country DUI Manslaughter is not viewed as a violent crime so he may be allowed to stay.  This after all of his previous felonies also. 


Mauricio Gomez stood up in court and told me he was sorry, he made a mistake. The worst thing he could have said to me.  He should have stopped with "I'm sorry" and left it at that.  Not only do I not believe he is sorry after all the dramatics he has pulled, but he did not make a mistake.  He did not make a wrong turn.  He drove his car intoxicated and murdered my child.  He chose to do that.  That is not a mistake.  His mother got up and told me that I shouldn't be vengeful (because the friends and family that spoke to the judge of behalf of Matt said they wanted Gomez to get the maximum penalty).  No one was being vengeful.  We wanted justice, what justice we could get from the laws as they stand now.  Mauricio Gomez needed to take responsibility for his actions.  That is not vengeful.  His mother also felt she had the right to tell me that I needed to do something good with this - not having any clue what I have been doing since her son chose to kill my son.  She tried to portray herself and her son as the victims. 


DUI - the most socially acceptable violent crime there is.