Sarah Matthew, an Eagle River teen whose courageous battle against cancer united her community in support, died Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. She was 19.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. at Community Covenant Church in Eagle River.
Matthew’s struggle began in 2011, during her senior year at Chugiak High School. While shopping for a prom dress with her mom, Sarah began experiencing headaches. By the following Monday, she was in Seattle undergoing treatment for a brain tumor.
When community members learned the bright-eyed, active teen with the “MKTRBL” license plates and long, curly black hair was in trouble, they rallied behind the family. The Eagle River Elks held a special prom in Sarah’s honor, classmates and teammates organized fundraisers, faculty and students at CHS pitched in to buy an iPad and the Eagle River softball team — Chugiak’s cross-town rivals — wore commemorative “Team Sarah Matthew!” patches in her honor. When Sarah arrived home after a round of agonizing treatments, she found dozens of friends and supporters waiting at the airport to meet her.
“The amount of prayers and support from everywhere — from our work, the community, schools — it’s just been amazing,” Sarah’s dad, Julius, told the Star in May, 2011.
Sarah Daria Matthew was born Aug. 11, 1993 in Fairbanks. She graduated from Chugiak in 2011 and was enrolled at UAA, where she planned to study graphic design.
Outgoing, smart and athletic, Matthew played basketball, tennis, hockey, flag football and softball at Chugiak. She had a keen fashion sense (with a special fondness for high heels), loved hip-hop music, was known for her energetic personality and was voted the senior with the “Most Beautiful Smile” by her classmates.
“Sarah was a beautiful person, inside and out,” wrote her family. “She was a very active young woman and a great team player, always known for her sportsmanship and great physical abilities. Sarah excelled in school, earning excellent grades and impressing all she worked under with her work ethic and intelligence.”
She also enjoyed creating arts and crafts projects for her family and friends. She once made a puzzle called “Family and Love,” on which she wrote the names of her mom, dad, brother and sister. Also included on the puzzle was the message, “I made this present because we all fit together like a puzzle, but even though we still are different we still love and care for each other. I love you guys.”
Sarah enjoyed spending time with her sister and brother, helping her younger siblings with homework and sports.
“Sarah was exceptionally caring and big-hearted, giving out love to all her friends and family,” the family wrote.
She was also a talented musician who continued singing even after cancer robbed her of much of her voice. She loved animals and once talked of becoming a veterinarian. She had two dogs, Daisy and Jackson. Also known as “Jay Jay,” Jackson was particularly dear to Sarah as she struggled with illness. Given to her by Marty Goldberg, the companion dog was Sarah’s constant friend during her fight.
“Sarah had a huge heart for animals,” her family wrote.
Sarah’s strength in the face of her disease was an inspiration to her family.
“She fought her cancer surrounded by loving family, with a strong belief in the power of the Lord to help her with her struggle,” they said. “Sarah never lost her hope, with her beautiful personality shining throughout her precious life.”
She is survived by her parents, Julius and Edna Matthew; sister, Julia Matthew; brother, Stephen Matthew; and extended family in Fairbanks, Palmer, Anchorage and Washington State.
“Sarah leaves a hole in her family that will be felt forever,” the family said. “We are thankful that Sarah’s pain and suffering is no more. We love you, Sarah.”