A Most Decent Man

by Jack Fowler

Few if any of us who have been at NR for some length of time would disagree with the simple statement that Matthew Carolan, our former colleague (pictured above, left, with former coworkers Karina Rollins and Chris Weinkopf) — the magazine’s executive editor for much of the Nineties — was one of the most decent men one could have ever met.

To me, he was more than merely decent. The Long Island native was smart, courteous, cheerful, thoughtful, kind, of even temperament, of profound sincerity. There was a sense to him of maturity, calm, and innate goodness. You were less likely to say something nasty or off-color in his presence . . . just because he was Matt, and he was there. He made you a better person. I knew from the get-go that in Matt I had met the kind of man whom I should aspire to emulate, whether it be as a friend or a colleague. Speaking for myself: I never met a better man.

I bet I speak for plenty of others too.

Matt left this world yesterday, Sunday, in the early hours, succumbing to a brain tumor that he had fought with dignity and determination over the past two years. It was a long and arduous battle, prolonged by his will to live, to be the good father to his four young children, to be the gentle husband to his beloved wife, Stacy. Death was not a thief in the night, but a thief of many nights, which slowly took a life, but never took a spirit.

About Matt: He had a long run, with his good pal Ray Keating, in writing an excellent weekly column for Newsday; he was a dedicated Little League coach, had been a regular guest on a local PBS show on religion, a singer in a rock band, and for two decades a beloved teacher of philosophy, ethics, and the humanities to thousands of students at several Long Island colleges (student reviews always praising him). I think he even tried a stint as a stand-up comic.

An understatement: His life after leaving NR was challenging. Into every life a little rain must fall — but for many years it poured on Matt. Work hell, layoffs, and other issues that would break many a soul came his way. And then came the illness. But in the depths of what had to be real misery and despair, Matt offered family and friend and student and neighbor hope and love. There was never self-pity, never the cry, woe is me.

He maintained a couple of blogs over the years, in which he reflected, very publicly and profoundly, about matters of social interaction, and of faith and spirituality. For some time there seemed to be a crisis of faith — maybe this was an echo of Jesus asking, why have you forsaken me. But in the end, he was at . . . the beginning: a man of belief, and of God, and of real holiness. He cared deeply for all people, prayed for them — I assume offering up his own torments — and wished all people to know, without their needing to suppose so, that he loved them, and thought of them, and thought well of them. Matt believed in forgiving, and being forgiven, and seemed to have a touch of scrupulosity: His final Twitter posting from this January read, “If I have ever offended you, please forgive me. I hope and pray for good for EVERYONE I have ever met.”

“Ever offended you?” I cannot fathom that.

Matt was very active on social media, so I don’t think it gauche of me to share what was one of his final Facebook posts, from last St. Valentine’s Day, a particularly hard day for him as that morning he had been released (in a very bungled fashion) from the hospital:

At the last minute, I managed to get a bouquet for Stacy at the local florist. I was happy to have not missed that. Walking home from there, just as I saw my house through the school yard, a brilliant sky of colors engulfed it all, then disappeared as I continued my journey home. As [sic] sure feeling of God with me still.

He is. And you are with him Matt. Good friend, good colleague, great man — there was nothing ever to forgive, only our own failings. The torments are over: Rest in Peace.

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