Friends and family members of Don Van Matre are remembering and honoring him. The 34-year-old Grand Junction resident died last week after falling into an irrigation ditch and drowning.
Friends remember Van Matre for his “gold heart” and ability to make others laugh.
“If you were down, he was the first one to make you smile,” said Jeromy Buck, a childhood friend of Van Matre’s. “He was just always upbeat and willing to do anything for you.”
Van Matre, a graduate of Grand Junction High School, had a love for the outdoors, his friends and family, and the Denver Broncos.
Friends have set up a memorial fund for Van Matre, which will be given to his mother to help pay for funeral expenses.
“She’s been through a lot these last couple years,” said Van Matre’s friend Adahm Zoobi. “She lost her husband, her two sisters and now her son. If anybody needs a friend right now, it’d be her, and I’m willing to do it and so are so many people. I think it speaks words for what this community can come together to do.”
Van Matre traveled 17 miles down the irrigation canal before a passerby in Fruita found him last week. His friends call the day a nightmare, something incomprehensible.
“I didn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it,” said Buck. “It was heartbreaking. It’s still hard to get over and know he won’t be around anymore.”
Now, they’re left with unanswered questions about the tragic night.
“It breaks my heart not knowing what truly happened,” said Zoobi. “We’re all looking for closure.”
But, Zoobi said now is the time to put himself aside and take care of Van Matre’s family.
“My heart goes out to his family, that’s who we really need to be there for right now,” Zoobi said. “I’ve kind of put myself on the side, on the shelf for now, to help them out.”
Van Matre’s memorial fund will be open for the next 30 days at Rio Grande Federal Credit Union, located at 760 Rood Avenue in Grand Junction.