Cheswick and his friends, Roe said, were very close. Many, like Regan and Doug Parker, a 2007 Glenelg graduate, work at Merriweather. Parker's mother, Jean, is the general manager at Merriweather. She said losing Cheswick meant losing a member of her personal family, as well as her work family. Cheswick was there with Doug when his own father died of cancer, Jean Parker said.
"It's impossible to get your arms around or put into words, this loss," she said. "Matt was the employee you wanted on your payroll. He was the friend you wanted your kids to have, and his smile — he had an eternal, sincere, beautiful smile."
Doug Parker remembered a co-worker who was "an absolute pleasure to work with" and a friend who was always happy.
"Right now it just feels like we're missing something," he said. "I woke up this morning thinking it was all a bad dream. ... As the minutes and hours go by, you realize how much he's missing in everything. It overcomes you."
Another friend remembered a time when Cheswick was there for him. Nick Antlitz, a 2006 Glenelg graduate, suffered his own accident on the Eastern Shore in 2008, when he fell from a basketball hoop and broke his neck. He is now paralyzed from the waist down, and remembered how, every weekend after his fall, Cheswick was there in the hospital with him.
"It's like the tables are turned now," Antlitz said. "They tell me about when I got hurt, how hard it was for them to hear it, how they heard it, who they heard it from, and about how Matt was always there, and as soon as Doug called me, I was like, 'You have to be kidding me.'"
A warning for others
Antlitz doesn't work at Merriweather, but he was there backstage Tuesday with his friends and Cheswick's co-workers for the event happening on stage: his younger brother was graduating from Glenelg, as was Parker's younger sister. Cheswick's younger brother, Luke, is a sophomore at Glenelg.
Roe said she hoped the tragedy would serve as a reminder to the community not to drink and drive, and it's a timely reminder, with nearly 4,000 students graduating from Howard County schools this week and last, many of them traveling to the Eastern Shore to celebrate.
"We've always stressed, all through schooling, about safety and good decision-making," said Patti Caplan, schools spokeswoman. "Those are the skills we hope they take with them when they graduate.
"It's sad this young man was an innocent victim of drunk driving. It's another reminder to students not to get behind the wheel if they've been drinking."
The timing was too much for Parker and Antlitz: Both were worried for their younger siblings in the wake of Cheswick's death.
"No matter what you're doing or where you are, it's like something hard's on your chest," Antlitz said.
Cheswick's funeral is scheduled for Friday, June 1, at 1 p.m., at St. Michael's Catholic Church, in Mount Airy.
Staff writer Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.