- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 3 May 2009.
Mathew Gentry McPeek
August 14, 1991 - May 03, 2009
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Resided In: Sevierville, Tennessee
Visitation: May 07, 2009
Service: May 07, 2009
Mathew Gentry McPeek, age 17 of Sevierville, passed away Sunday, May 3, 2009. A future Marine, Matthew was a big brother and protector to many.
He was preceded in death by his grandmother June Marie Gentry.
Survivors include his:
Father: Zayne Ray McPeek of Sevierville
Mother: Phyllis Gentry of Chattanooga
Sisters: Brittney Joann Gentry, Tiffany Leighann McPeek both of Sevierville
Grandparents: Loye Jane and Harry McPeek of Sevierville, Richard Gentry of Trenton, GA
Uncles and aunts: Dwayne and Sarah McPeek of Franklin, VA, Mayson Keith McPeek of Catonsville, MD, Debbie Sanders of Alabama, Pat Scholtz of Chickamauga, GA, Willadean ODaniel of Trenton, GA, Wanda McGhee of Chickamauga, GA, William Gentry of Alabama, Lester Gentry of Chickamauga, GA
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to benefit the family.
Funeral service 7:30 PM Thursday at New Hope Church with Pastor Tom Sterbens officiating. The family will receive friends 4-7 PM Thursday at the church. Arrangements by Atchley Funeral Home, Sevierville. (www.atchleyfuneralhome.com)
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 6 May 2009.
Teen planned a Marine career
SEVIERVILLE - They called him The Protector. If you spoke badly about a girl, he'd be on you, all 300 muscular pounds of him, making sure you didn't do it again. And if you tried to hurt his sisters. Well, that's when he really got involved.
Mathew Gentry McPeek is the name they'll put on his tombstone. It's a tribute to the man who really raised him, Zane McPeek, who became his father when Matt was just 2. It was Zane McPeek who was there when troopers came to their Sevierville house around 4:30 a.m. Sunday to tell him 17-year-old Matt was dead.
The family is still coming to grips with what happened last weekend. A car in which Matt was riding crashed into a tree on Allensville Road. It was nighttime and the roads were slick. Matt was a passenger in the front seat and died on the scene. Others in the car were hospitalized with injuries.
The family's grief is understandable, but there are a few things they want you to know.
Matt was, by all accounts, a good guy. He didn't drink or smoke.
He was extremely protective of his younger sisters, 14-year-old Tiffany and 13-year-old Brittany. In fact, he watched over lots of vulnerable students at SCHS, especially those he thought were being bullied.
"He was the protector of the world," Zane McPeek said of his son. "I got calls from the high school all the time saying he'd been in some kid's face who was bullying somebody or had been mean to a girlfriend. He was like a guardian angel."
Matt's mom, Phyllis Gentry, separated from McPeek when Matt was 11. She stayed in Chattanooga and he and the girls moved with McPeek to Sevierville.
Matt was a hulking 300-pounder, a weightlifter who also knew taekwondo. He had already signed up to join the Marines after graduation next year. A military life had been his dream since he was 8, and nothing stood in his way. Not even his love of football.
According to his dad, Matt walked away from football at SCHS when he was told he couldn't take Tuesdays off from practice to do Marine training.
In April, McPeek and the children took a cruise, saving for months to afford it. Matt sold his Jeep to give them some spending money. McPeek said he fought the trip for weeks, saying they couldn't afford it, but he finally agreed to it.
"It was a struggle, but now I'm so glad we did it," he said.
Phyllis Gentry respected her son's special relationship with Zane McPeek, a relationship that began when Matt was just 2.
"He really respected his daddy," she said.
The boys in the car that night were best of friends, and Matt was especially close to the young driver of the car. As sad as the family is, as grief-stricken as they'll be for some time, they do not blame the driver.
"He feels guilty enough as it is," McPeek said. He visited the boy at UT Medical Center, and phoned him several times, to reassure him that the family holds no bad feelings - nor would Matt.
"We don't want to see any charges against (the driver)," Phyllis Gentry said. "He's been punished enough."
Troopers were late notifying the family of Matt's death because the teenager didn't have his billfold. Only when troopers visited the other families did they learn who had died. McPeek said Matt had called him around 10 p.m. Saturday to tell him he planned to spend the night with his friends.
"Matt was gonna change the world," McPeek said of his son. "He deserved to be somebody. I don't know why God took him from us. There's got to be a reason. I do know this. Matt was where he wanted to be that night."
Phyllis Gentry says she has called Matt's cell phone at least 20 times since the accident, just to hear him in the voicemail.
The funeral service for Matt Gentry McPeek will be Thursday at New Hope Church. For the full obituary see Page 4A.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 6 May 2009.
Local teens remain in hospital after wreck
SEVIERVILLE ? Two teens hurt in a Saturday evening wreck were still battling Monday to recover from serious injuries they received in the incident, which sent three to the hospital and killed one young man.
Phillip "Matt" Gentry, 17, died after sustaining injuries as a passenger in the Allensville Road crash. Fellow riders Joshua Lethco, 15, and Johnathan Tibbs, 17, were in stable and critical condition respectively Monday, a University of Tennessee Medical Center spokeswoman said.
The name of the driver, who is a minor, was withheld based on state law; his condition is unknown.
It appears inexperience and the fact none of the young men was wearing a seat belt combined to produce the fatal wreck, officials said.
According to a Tennessee Highway Patrol report of the incident, the car was traveling east on Allensville Road near Lohman Road at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when it left the right side of the blacktop. The driver apparently overcorrected the mistake, sending the vehicle spinning across the road and eventually into a ditch, where it struck a tree.
Trooper Howard Greenlee reported the young men were riding in a 2005 Mazda M3H, though it's not clear who the owner of the vehicle is.
Information on services for Gentry was not yet available on Monday.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 11 May 2009.
Stan Voit: Teen driver really needs our support
When my son was 19 he got mixed up with the wrong fraternity crowd in college and began an involvement in illegal drugs. When he was arrested it was on a DUI charge, not more serious drug charges. Still, he sold his vehicle to pay his fine and his lawyer, lost his license - and lost my respect for a time.
Thankfully he turned it around, and today is a law-abiding, happily married citizen in another state, with a good job and a sense of responsibility. He made a mistake, a youthful error in judgment. Today I respect him and am proud of him. While grandchildren would be nice, I am just as content with the man and husband he has become.
Kids think they'll live forever. No matter how good the lessons we as parents teach them, the example we show them, the punishments we mete out for misbehavior, when they get around their friends they'll sometimes forget our lessons and act recklessly.
I am thinking today of a certain Sevierville teenager who is really suffering these days. He was the driver of the vehicle that crashed into a tree on Allensville Road last weekend, killing his best friend, a front-seat passenger. Those in the backseat were badly hurt too. The injured will recover physically, but for the young man who was driving, his injuries cannot so easily be seen.
There has been no suggestion or evidence of any drinking that caused the accident. True, they weren't wearing seatbelts, but don't forget, kids think they'll live forever. What happened was a youthful, inexperienced driver losing control of a car traveling too fast. They were kids being kids, however wrong and foolish such behavior was and is. Who among us didn't do such things as teenagers? Accidents happen to other people, not us.
There are many heroes among us - some we know about, some we may never know. I met some new heroes in Sevierville last week: Mathew Gentry McPeek's family. From his dad to his mom to his sisters to his extended family, all are of one mind when it comes to the accident: They do not blame the driver for Mathew's death, and they know Mathew wouldn't either.
So often we hear about bitterness and lawsuits that evolve from tragedies like these. Not this time. In their grief Mathew's family have embraced the driver, made sure he knows they do not hold him responsible and want him to recover in every way.
I know the driver's mother. She is a good and decent person, a loving mother who not long ago took her son's passion for a special recreational activity and made it her own cause, working to make her son's hobby within reach of more young people.
Youthful indiscretions and errors in judgment are not the fault of good and loving parents. I don't drink or smoke, but my son does. He didn't learn that from me. Our influence on our children changes as they get older. We'd like to think they'll mind us even when they aren't at home, and they'll remember all we taught them and the examples we set, but they don't. Because no matter what we say and do, they still think they'll live forever. They still think the worst that can happen when they don't do what's right, won't happen to them.
Besides, you have to let go.
The young man who drove the car that killed his best friend will have some really tough weeks and months ahead. The guilt will seem overwhelming. No matter what Mathew's family tells him, no matter how many hugs and shows of support he gets from family and friends, he still carries this burden.
Two things he should know: We do get better, and we still control so much of our lives. Those who know the kid, who go to class and church with him and live in his neighborhood - he really needs you now. He needs time to heal, with the assurance that those who love him and care about him will be there for him.
As for the young man: Make your life count for something. Make Mathew proud. Be a good productive citizen. Share your experience with those who are younger, so they'll know the consequences of reckless behavior.
We are all pulling for you to come through this a better person. And you will. My son did. Millions of other kids have. So can you. Hey, it's what Mathew wants you to do.
Stan Voit is editor of The Mountain Press. His column appears each Sunday. He can be reached at 428-0748, ext. 217, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.