Memorial to take place today for history student killed in crash

By Gus Bode

Matthew Dunstan loved family, southern Illinois

The last few years of Matthew Dunstan’s life were trying times.

He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer in 2002, and he was devastated by the deaths of multiple family members shortly after. But through it all, friends said he never stopped smiling.


Friends and family members will gather to remember his smile, kind nature and love of rock music at a memorial service in his honor tonight. Dunstan, a 23-year-old history major from Elizabethtown, was killed Oct. 25 in a single-car accident.

Dunstan was heading to work at a nearby coal mine when his car skidded off Forest Road near Saline County, hit a tree and caught fire. The cause of the accident is unknown, though friends and family speculate he swerved to avoid a deer.

The memorial, which was organized by friends and faculty members in the History Department, will begin at 4 p.m. at the Interfaith Center, located at 913 S. Illinois Ave.

“Matt was really down for a while, it took a while for him to look at life a little differently,” said Heather Rash, who met Dunstan in high school and dated him for six years. “But within the last few months, his attitude really changed. He was upbeat. He had started living again.”

Dunstan, who was called “Matty” by friends and family, was the kind of guy who would do anything for his loved ones, including spending hours making holiday arts and crafts with Rash. He hated country music, loved Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. Recently he decided to study early childhood education, Rash said.

He was a quiet guy but stayed busy with hobbies that included anything from drawing to dabbling with electronics to playing basketball and baseball to cooking.

“He made the best – the best – pork chops,” said Rash, who lived with Dunstan and another friend in an apartment in Murphysboro. The couple broke up over the summer but remained close.


Friends said Dunstan was genuine and proud of his southern Illinois roots. He loved Hardin County and wasn’t afraid to say so.

“He was just good people, a hard working, funny guy,” said Pete Conrad, a senior in history who helped organize the memorial. “We just wanted to do something to celebrate him, celebrate his life.”

Reporter Monique Garcia can be reached at [email protected]