NEW ALBANY — Bright. Loving. Happy-go-lucky. Super chill. Simple.
This is how friends and family described Matt Brewer at a memorial skate Tuesday at Silver Street Park in New Albany, an event that allowed them to come together and celebrate the man they lost one year ago.
Matt died Aug. 6 of last year at the hospital from injuries suffered when he was hit by a minivan at Spring and Ninth streets. He was doing what he loved most at the time of the accident — skateboarding — and those who knew him said he leaves behind a legacy of inspiration and positivity in the local skate community.
"He loved it," his mother, Judy Brewer, said as she and other family members sat under a shade tree Tuesday afternoon, watching his friends skate the park in his memory. "If he wasn't working, he was skating. All the time. He'd just go down to the park and skate all hours of the night."
The day after Matt died last year, dozens of friends showed up to the skatepark at the New Albany riverfront — a spot where Matt had spent a lot of his time — to show their love. His mother said it made her happy to see them out again Tuesday at the one-year anniversary.
"I think it's great," she said. "It's nice that people still remember him and the guy he was and what he liked to do."
But those there at the park don't have any intention of forgetting the man who taught them so much — as a friend, a teacher, a supporter.
"I think a lot of local skaters just looked up to him — he was skating all the time," said Scott Thompson, who grew up with Matt and went to high school with him. "He was a really good guy, too. He was really kind."
T.J. Gusler said he started skating when he was around 13 or 14, about 10 years younger than Matt. Gusler said Matt had a way about him that made one want to do well.
"He was super supportive," Gusler said. "If you were trying something and it was like a big deal, he'd get his camera out and you're like 'Oh, Matt's excited; I'm going to keep trying to do this.'"
The memorial wasn't held this year at the riverfront park, which is undergoing remodeling to make way for a new park there as part of a skatepark/art installation project of the Carnegie Center for Art & History. He'll always be part of that riverfront space, his friends say.
"You knew every day you'd go down there and he'd be there, ready to go," said Shane Hockersmith, who was one of the scores of skaters Matt inspired throughout Southern Indiana and Louisville. "[He] would do anything for any of us, especially kids growing up who skated. He would take you to spots with him, show you how to do things, sit and talk to you.
"He was definitely the biggest supporter of skating."
Matt's spirit is one that will live on in the community, with seeds that have taken root in the younger kids. Andrew Nicholson, skater and downtown resident who helped organize Tuesday's event with the others in the skate scene, said he'd met Matt four or five years ago when Nicholson had started teaching his son to skate.
Matt had helped, teaching the 10-year-old cool tricks, supporting him and his father along the way.
"Matt would encourage my son not only to be a better skater but to keep trying," Nicholson said. "And he'd encourage me to be a better skater and reassure me that I was doing a good job as a father."
This was just the way Matt was, Nicholson said. His character helped others to be better.
"Seeing him constantly going at it inspired other skaters to keep going," Nicholson said. "I've never seen Matt mad; he always had a smile. Even if you weren't a skater you always got greeted with a smile."
Nicholson called the local skate community "very tight, very close, very supportive," which was evident in the faces of those who turned out to honor their friend.
"The skate community here in Southern Indiana and Louisville is an encouraging group of guys, girls, people, who like to push one another to not only be better skaters, but be better humans," he said.