North County folks gave their help and their hearts to a local man who has been seriously ill for the last four years. The death of Matthew O'Reilly, 42, in his White Hall home Oct. 28 has left those hearts broken.
Originally diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2009, he later found out he had ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
When word of his deteriorating physical condition spread in 2011, neighbors and friends organized a fundraiser to pay for experimental treatments not covered by his health insurance.
The following year, as his health continued to fail, dozens of volunteers showed up to scrape and paint the Victorian house he shared with his wife, Michelle, and children Lizzie and Jack. His friends also landscaped the yard.
For the past two years, a neighbor has arranged for his lawn service to mow the O'Reilly's lawn each time his was mowed.
And the kindness continues after Matthew's death. Michelle O'Reilly said Hereford High School's Future Farmers of America club plans on coming to clean out and repair one of two barns on the property. A friend delivered and stacked enough firewood to keep her wood-burning stove going through the winter.
My Neighbors Foundation sent the O'Reilly children to weeklong camp for the past several summers and a local Boy Scout troop is scheduled to rake leaves. Folks at Seventh District Elementary School, where her children are in third and fifth grades, have just asked for the kids' Christmas wish list.
"People have been so unbelievably nice," Michelle said. "Matt's friends from grade school and high school have stayed close to him. He was such a funny guy who could make anyone laugh. He was the class clown who never grew up. Everybody who met Matt loved him."
Matthew's brother, Patrick O'Reilly, of Monkton, talked about his big brother at a memorial service at Evans Funeral Home on Nov. 7.
"With Matt, friendship was like the mafia. Once you were in, you were in," he said. "He was very gentle, kind and honest. He was extremely bright, an excellent student and an accomplished athlete."
Patrick ended by saying "I got to spend 40 years with one of the best human beings that I have ever known. Someone who was a faithful and loving husband, a loving father, a loyal son, a true friend and the best brother any one could ever hope to have."
Matthew grew up in Monkton and attended Sparks Elementary School. He graduated from Hereford High School in 1989. He played baseball in high school, but golf was his passion.
After graduating from then Towson State University, he was an assistant golf professional at Greystone Golf Course in White Hall. He then went to Innisbrook Golf Club in Florida for two years before returning as a golf professional at Hayfields County Club in Hunt Valley.
He married the former Michelle Wuestenhagen in 2000.
He was working as a wine specialist with Bacchus Importers when poor health forced him to retire in January 2011.
As ALS symptoms — muscle weakness, difficulty walking, talking and swallowing — increased, Matthew received a gift from Baltimore Ravens' former player O.J. Brigance.
Brigance, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2007, set up the Brigance Brigade Foundation to assist others with the disease.
The foundation gave him a computer with eye recognition software, so he could communicate with others after he lost the ability to talk and use his hands. He could send emails and write notes to his family.
In addition to his wife, children and brother, Matthew O'Reilly's survivors include: James O'Reilly, his father; Kenneth and Kim Keely, his aunt and uncle; Julia O'Reilly, his sister-in-law; and Sam and Grace O'Reilly, his niece and nephew. His mother, Susan, died in 2001.
Memorial contributions may be made to Matthew O'Reilly Memorial Fund, PNC Bank, 201 Mt. Carmel Road, Parkton, MD 21120.