Family and friends remember fallen wildland firefighter

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Sat, August 9 2014 at 5:56 PM, Updated: Sat, August 9 2014 at 7:09 PM

Phoenix, Ore. -- It was an emotional day for friends and family of 21-year-old Matthew David Goodnature, the wildland firefighter who died last week on July 29th.

A big smile and a big heart is how friends and family described Matthew Goodnature, a 2011 Phoenix High School graduate.

"He was a great guy, always smiling. Always making everybody happy," said Kirri Ross, a friend who was on the same fire crew for 47 days with Goodnature last year.

"He was a loving kind of person. He was my friend," continued Ross.

At Goodnature's memorial Saturday afternoon, Ross wore protective glasses, that he calls bug eyes, in memory of the young man he calls a brother and friend.

"He always wore them. He loved them," explained Ross.

Roughly 200-250 people filled the auditorium at Phoenix High School to celebrate Goodnature's life and vibrant personality.

"Matt lived right up to his name. He was a good-natured, positive,strong person. He made everybody around him better," said Steve Dodd's who owns Pacific Oasis Wildland Firefighting and employed Goodnature.

Friends took to the stage to say a few words. One friend, Tyson Lillis, said without Goodnature, he wouldn't be the person he is today.

"He showed me how to really embrace life and really live it to the fullest," said Lillis.

This was the second season Goodnature was involved in fighting fires. Family members said it was something he loved.

"I knew he found something he loved and that give me a little comfort today," began Jimmy Andrews, Goodnature's uncle.

"We will see you soon my nephew, hold the fort down 'til we get there. Love you bud," he continued.

After sharing memories from Goodnature's childhood, his sister Jessica Goodnature Swartz, ended her speech with two quotes. The first is from the character Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series that both she and her brother loved.

"For the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure," she recited.

"With Matt, I guarantee it is," said Goodnature Swartz.

The second quote, she said was posted on Facebook by one of her friends.

"Firemen never die, they burn forever in the hearts of people's lives they saved."

NBC5 News spoke with Goodnature's mother Judy Goodnature. While she did not want to speak on camera, she said she appreciated the support from people who came to the memorial for her son. She previously told NBC5 News that Matthew was very loving and never hung up the phone without saying 'I love you.'

On Saturday, Governor John Kitzhaber ordered that flags be flown at half-staff to honor Goodnature.

An Honor Guard ceremony was also held at Goodnature's memorial.

Goodnature died while on break from fighting the Launch Fire near Fourmile Lake when he slipped on a rock and fell on a downed log.

Pacific Oasis Wildland Firefighting created a memorial fund for the family. Donations will be accepted through any Wells Fargo Bank, under the name "Matthew Goodnature Memorial Fund."

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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