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Family, Friends Remember, Honor Victim Of Gas Rig Explosion In McAlester

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Matthew Smith Matthew Smith
Five men were killed in the explosion this month. Five men were killed in the explosion this month.
McALESTER, Oklahoma -

Family and friends said goodbye to Matthew Smith Tuesday afternoon. Smith is one of the five men killed during last week’s gas drilling rig explosion.

Hundreds of people paid their respects to Matthew during his funeral service in McAlester. His family said they’re focusing on his life, not his death.

Matthew’s wife, brother and a number of friends talked about the quiet, kind and gentle man, who loved hunting and fishing, who loved his family and lived for being a dad.

Matthew never had to say a word, his eyes always did the talking for him, whether good or bad.

“That look...I knew when I was in trouble. I knew whenever he was happy,” Matthew’s younger brother Bryan said.

Matthew and Bryan had an unbreakable bond. They were best friends.

“We weren’t twins, we were eight years apart, but we should have been twins,” Bryan said. “Matthew really is my hero. He is my hero.”

1/23/2018 Related Story: Savanna Community Remembers Man Killed In Rig Explosion

Matthew had another best friend, though, his wife, Julie. She said the very quiet Matthew wooed her through texting and old-fashioned romance.

“He didn’t say much, but he was just so amazing, like, he would just open the doors for me, he would hold my hand, put his arm around me,” Julie said.

The two fell hard and fast

“Within six months we were married. We were 19 and we were married when we were 20,” said Julie.

That was nearly nine years ago.

“We just made each other better people. He is my person. He is my person. There is no other person in this world that can fill that void because we just made each other who we are,” Julie said.

On Tuesday, wearing dark glasses to hide her tears, Julie found the strength to stand up at her husband’s funeral to and share some of her favorite memories.

Her greatest memory is from 2016 when Matthew and Julie became mom and dad to little Rhett.

“He was so proud of that baby boy and family we created together,” she told the guests at the funeral. “Matthew was always such an amazing husband to begin with, and when that little boy was born, it made him better...like, how do you make someone that amazing, better? But he did.”

The last moment Rhett shared with his dad is one he won’t remember, but it’s one Julie will never forget. It came the morning he died.

“Before he left, he gave Rhett a kiss on the forehead and then he gave me a kiss on the forehead, and I still can visually see him standing over me because that was my last memory,” Julie said. “It’s just a silhouette because he didn’t want us to wake.”

Family was everything to Matthew. His mom, Edie, said it made him whole, and them too.

“Matthew, he was like, steady and true. You always knew. Even though he didn’t say much, you knew what he was thinking,” Edie said. “He kind of like was our glue to hold us together.”

Now the family is trying to imagine life without their rock.

“I miss my Matthew very, very much and I keep thinking this all just a big nightmare that’s gonna end at some point,” his wife said.

The days ahead will be hard, but there’s peace thinking at Matthew’s smile, which shined through his eyes, and seeing the same in his son.

“He looks just like his dad. It makes me feel good, the comfort of knowing that we have a mini-Matthew. That’s gonna be very comforting,” his mom said.

Matthew worked in the oilfield for about six years. His family said he loved his job and brothers on the rig.

Matthew’s family handed out orange and blue ribbons at the funeral to oilfield workers. They wanted to honor them as well after such a tragic week.

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