Firefighter Lawrence Matthews Jr., a devoted husband and loving father of five, made the ultimate sacrifice on June 10, 2017, while performing a job he loved—fighting a fire.
On June 2, 2007, Lawrence was given a second chance at life when he became a heart transplant recipient at the University of Chicago Hospital, where he met his future wife. Two years later, he became a firefighter on his birthday, September 9, 2009. Lawrence was a mentally strong person and always went after what he wanted. In his own words, “I was blessed with a new heart and a new life. I wanted to help save someone else’s life; I wanted to become a firefighter.”
The University of Chicago thought Lawrence’s story was worth sharing; in 2015, he had his own commercial air on television in Illinois for an entire year! Lawrence’s handsome face was plastered on billboards throughout the city of Chicago and surrounding cities on the expressways. His story was in magazines, the Chicago Tribune, and even the Wall Street Journal. He was quite the celebrity that year. He had a wonderful story to tell and inspire others.
Lawrence was passionate about life and helping others. He served as the public safety education officer for the Village of Dolton. He dressed up as Sparky for the younger children and played Santa Claus during the holidays both for Dolton and his children’s schools. He spent many successful seasons coaching Little League baseball and basketball, seasons that his children and wife will never forget. He was always the parent on the sidelines coaching volleyball and football, pushing the children harder than they thought they could go.
He was determined that he could help others find the courage to better their lives, and in many cases he did. He was a great friend to many, a mentor and well-rounded family man. His strength and endurance have become an inspiration for many.
Lawrence enjoyed watching and playing sports, cooking, and spending quality time with his loved ones. While some of that quality time was spent cleaning and doing yard work, they were still lessons his children will hold on to forever. Lawrence dabbled in acting and was an extra on Chicago Fire for a few episodes. He was ambitious and successful at whatever he tried.
Lawrence will always be remembered for his generous heart, his faith, jovial personality, and optimistic perspective on life. He will always be remembered as the “Iron Man” and our hero forever. We love and miss him tremendously.