In Memoriam: Lawrence's Story

In his brief — but nonetheless impactful — life, Lawrence Matthews Jr. had two main passions.

“He was passionate about his family and helping others,” said Rachel Matthews, Lawrence’s wife of nearly three years. “People seemed drawn to him and he was always there to lend a helping hand. His strength and endurance has become an inspiration for many.”

Lawrence died on June 10, 2017, at the age of 35. A Dolton firefighter since 2008, Lawrence went into cardiac arrest while responding to a fire at a mobile home park in nearby Harvey, according to Rachel.

“The Harvey Fire Department needed some assistance so they called [the] Dolton [Fire Department] and Lawrence went into cardiac arrest while at the scene of the fire,” Rachel said. “He made the ultimate sacrifice while doing a job he loved.”

It only seems natural then that an event held with the purpose of helping those in need would be named after a man who made it his mission to help others. The Dolton Fire Department has renamed its blood drive with Vitalant the “In Memory of Lawrence Mathews Blood Drive.”

Lawrence often spent his spare time on a baseball or softball diamond or the football field coaching his children, Rachel said. Following his passing, some of those he coached with approached Rachel to see if there was anything they could do for her.

“Everybody asks what they can do to help so I encouraged them to give blood,” Rachel said. “There is always a need.”

Blood and organ donation was always important to Lawrence, his wife said. A little more than 10 years ago, the Chicago native suddenly became ill and was placed on the heart transplant list. In June of 2007 he had the transplant and soon after took a job as a security guard.

“He was tossing people out of night clubs and no one could believe he was a heart transplant recipient,” Rachel joked.

Lawrence and Rachel met in a rather unconventional way in 2009. Rachel worked at the University of Chicago Medical Center and Lawrence had a follow-up appointment for his heart transplant surgery.

“I actually checked him in as a patient,” she said. “That was how we met.”

Rachel, who had two children from a previous relationship, and Lawrence, who had one, went on to have two children together.

“He was a great friend to many, a coach, a mentor and a well-rounded family man,” she said. “He will always be our hero.”