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Tributes to Matt Key

This past summer the editorial team of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel was busy conceptualizing and developing the Nov. 23 special edition on enduring loss. We chose to address this theme at this time of year because we know many of our readers have endured the loss of loved ones and are facing the holidays without them. Our goal in producing such an edition was to give readers a sense of hope and comfort during their difficult time.

Moving into the editing phase of this edition in September, we could not have expected that Matt Key, 49, art director for the magazine, would die in a tragic boating accident. As we contemplated how best to honor Matt’s life, it was decided that staff members would be given opportunity to write a public tribute to him. The following tributes are representative of how we feel about Matt. They also offer insight into how we are enduring the loss of an esteemed colleague and good friend.


I wrestle with my son because my dad wrestled with me
I laugh with my son because my dad laughed with me
I play ball with my son because my dad played ball with me
I comfort my son because my dad comforted me
I listen to my son because my dad listened to me
I watch Indiana basketball with my son because my dad watched with me
I am patient with my son because my dad was with me
I discipline my son because my dad disciplined me
I work hard for my son because my dad worked hard for me
I show my son integrity because my dad showed it to me
I am generous to my son because my dad was to me
I pray with my son because my dad prayed with me
I am proud of my son because my dad was proud of me
I love my son because my dad loved me
And I’ll show him God ...

Dad, my heart is breaking. You are my best friend, and I see you in Deacon’s eyes. He wants to fly with you when he gets to heaven; it’s all he talks about. When I’m still I can see you looking at me. You don’t say anything, and you don’t have to. I know you are still with me, and you are proud.

— Lucas Key


When my wife, Peggy, lost her dad two years ago, Matt sent her this e-mail:

I wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you. Losing a father is tough, no matter his age. While you can find comfort in his release from the pain of this life, the thought of a daughter without a father is hard. I lost my dad a couple of months after I turned 30 ... I remember the first time it really hit me. I didn’t have a dad anymore. I wasn’t sure how to function without him. But I also remember how kind God was to comfort me and fill my mind with memories and thoughts of him. Be sure that He will do the same for you. I came to realize that dad will always be just that ... no matter where he is. And that means I will always be his son as you will always be a cherished daughter. It’s been over 18 years now and I still find great joy in that. I trust you will do the same.

All my best, Matt

Peggy passed Matt’s message on to his four daughters and son, Lucas, who is the production coordinator for TPE.

We are thankful that God allowed us to minister alongside one of His choice servants.

— Ken Horn


Matt Key wasn’t a preacher. But unlike a lot of sermons that have now escaped me, I still recall a devotion he delivered one morning for the staffs of TPE and Convoy of Hope.

The simple title caught my attention: “The Most Important Thing.”

As it turned out, Matt ticked off a list of several things he considered most important in life: loving his wife as the partner God chose for him, being a good father and grandfather, maintaining friendships, and, of course, having a growing relationship with Christ.

“That’s the most important thing,” he kept saying in his characteristically affable and unpretentious tone.

As I reflect on Matt’s life now, it strikes me that he left this world doing all the most important things. He was a man who sincerely loved Jesus, made the most of every moment and gave so much to others. On the day of his tragic accident, he was spending time with the family he so cherished. He truly left a legacy of a life well lived.

Today, though we grieve for our friend, we have the assurance that Matt is in heaven.

And that’s the most important thing.

— Christina Quick


My dear friend, Matt Key has traveled from Earth to heaven. I was not prepared to hear that news, and my head is jumbled with many questions and much confusion as to why it was his time to go at only 49 years old. How do we go from this moment to the next until time begins again and life goes on?

Matt was a quiet man, a good listener and seldom volunteered advice except to say, “Robin [his wife] and I will be praying with you about that” — and I knew in my heart, they really would pray for me.

Matt’s faith in God was unchanging, and Matt was the “center” of his immediate and extended family. He gave of himself to others his entire life and lived every moment in the frame of mind, What would Jesus do?

We stand on this shore and bid him farewell to Jesus’ safe and loving arms, and our hearts grieve as we say, “There he goes,” for we will miss him. But, in my mind’s eye, I see and hear the cheers on the shores of heaven as Jesus and all the saints are smiling and shouting, “Here he comes; enter into the joys of heaven and your Lord and Savior — welcome home.”

Danette McCabe


As I attempt to grasp that a friend who was filled with so much life, energy, health and pure orneriness just a few days ago simply no longer exists, I find the concept remains elusive to me. It’s hard not to expect him to bounce through the office, hit my wall (in an attempt to startle me) and give me a weird look — which of course I’d return with a friendly glare of my own.

Though our friendship mostly entailed badgering each other, there was the occasional meaningful discussion. Somewhere along the way, Matt unexpectedly dug a special little spot in my heart. The vacuum his loss so suddenly created has violently shaken us all awake to the fragility of this life — and to the great impact one life can make.

Comfort at this time only comes from knowing without a doubt he’s at home in the Lord’s dwelling place.

And Matt, when I toss the ball at that basket on your wall and miss for the 20th consecutive time, I’ll also miss the way you laughed and shook your head in disbelief. But above all, I’ll just miss you being around. I look forward to catching up with you someday “on the other side.”

— Jennifer McClure


Why does it seem like so often the great ones leave too soon? At 49 years, Matt will be etched in my mind as forever young.

It was a privilege to know Matt. He was funny, kind, caring, compassionate, trustworthy, wise, a great listener, artistically talented, athletic, and a living-life-to-the-fullest kind of guy. I’m fortunate he was my friend.

Our TPE staff is like a family. So losing Matt isn’t just losing a co-worker, it’s like losing a family member.

Matt was a wonderful Christian and family man. Matt’s son, Lucas, works alongside us in the TPE office, so I’ve seen firsthand the kind of father that Matt was. Any father would want to have the kind of relationship with his son that Matt shared with Lucas.

Matt listened with interest when I wanted to talk about my kids, and he taped pictures to his office wall that my daughter had drawn for him.

When the job would get really hectic, Matt quietly did his work without complaining or allowing his stress to show. He did what needed to be done. At times when my stress level was high, I could go to his office and shoot a few hoops, putt a few golf balls or toss his baseball-sized ball of aluminum foil. After talking with Matt a little, things made more sense and I could get back to work. He had a lot of wisdom, but only offered advice when asked.

I miss you, Matt. The next time I take a trip to Wisconsin, I’ll eat some of those caramels that you always requested I bring back for you. I’ll always remember you.

— Jodi Harmon


Matt and I shared a birth year — 1958 — and my oldest son and his only son are about the same age. I never heard Matt utter an angry word against anyone. He worked hard without complaining. Matt was one of the most stable, upright and compassionate men I ever knew.

Most days Matt and I walked together with several others on the staff at a 3 o’clock break, strolling around Assemblies of God headquarters a couple of times. Here we talked about politics, family and deeper issues of life.

A few days before he died, I told him of plans to take my wife on a New England vacation this fall for our 30th anniversary. Matt, who wed three weeks after we did, said that was Robin’s dream, and he started formulating a similar getaway. A couple of times a week he would come into my office and study the U.S. map on my wall, talking about the places he wanted to see.

Matt was a great art director. He created an illustration for a September 2002 cover story on alcohol in America by showing the Statue of Liberty holding a beer stein. Some readers were offended, but what a concept to get across the cost of unbridled liberties.

This past August, Matt illustrated how family television shows had changed since the beginning of the medium by framing different series inside TV sets of the decades represented. A few weeks later, The Wall Street Journal had a virtually identical layout for its own story.

— John W. Kennedy


I first met Matt two years ago when I started working at TPE. My first impression was that he was in dire need of some Ritalin. He was always “drumming” on his desk, the file cabinets, etc. It became a comforting sound in the office because we all knew that Matt was at work and full of energy. He had an infectious smile and laugh. The office is much too quiet now.

Matt also had a deep love for God and his family. His office was full of photographs, which enveloped him and surrounded him constantly with what was truly important in life — family. He lit up whenever he talked about his wife, five children and three grandchildren. The last time I saw Matt he went running out of the office like a lightning bolt. A few minutes later he returned. I asked him why he was running and he said that his grandkids were in the parking lot and he had to go see them. He was smiling from ear to ear. I told him that indeed was a good reason to run.

I will miss Matt. He leaves a hole in our hearts and at TPE.

— Kim Hellmer


The first thing to come over the wall in my cubicle was a large rubber band. A few days later, I withstood a bombardment of crumpled paper grenades. The salvos kept coming and got increasingly sophisticated. One day I took a soft Nerf dart to the temple. Then came the grapes …

That’s how Matt introduced himself to me during his first few months at the magazine. I liked him right away.

Over the years there were more pranks, ribbing, competitions such as tabletop football, power walks on the coldest and hottest of Missouri days, and long talks about the future.

But to me, the coolest thing about Matt was his ability to connect with kids. If you brought your kid into the office, he or she eventually gravitated to Matt. In his office area they would shoot the Nerf dart gun, play basketball on the mini-hoop or admire all the empty Mountain Dew cans Matt had meticulously stacked against a wall.

Whenever my 6-year-old son, Nikolas, came to see me he always begged to go into Matt’s area. I always agreed, figuring Nikolas would be way more destructive than the rubber bands, paper grenades and Nerf darts Matt had hurled over the wall. Matt never seemed to mind the intrusion, and Nikolas always left with a huge smile.

I think Matt did that for a lot of people — including me.

— Kirk Noonan


Matt Key was an avid Indiana University basketball supporter. Passionate sports enthusiasts often come across as bombastic and obnoxious when it comes to their teams. But not Matt. Although he loved his Hoosiers, Matt respected and appreciated opposing fans, even those of rival Big Ten schools.

That trait was a reflection of Matt’s Christian character. Matt didn’t wear or flaunt his convictions; he lived them. In contrast to his physical strength and abilities, Matt maintained a gentle demeanor. He was a man at peace with his environment and, most of all, his Lord.

I will miss the insightful and congenial discussions we had on a wide range of topics, including the Big Ten Conference and especially the rivalry between Indiana and my Illini. Most significant, however, is the loss of Matt’s enduring presence, creative abilities, and sense of humor, which blessed the entire staff of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.

Before I left work on Thursday, Sept. 25, Matt’s last day in the office, he asked how my mother was doing. Even though his elderly mother has been struggling with her health, Matt cared enough to inquire about the challenges my mom faces. That was our final conversation.

Thanks for so much, Matt.

— Ron Kopczick


It sits on his desk, a testament to years of focused nervous energy. It’s about the size of a tennis ball, but 100 percent aluminum.

Matt would solicit donations of aluminum foil from the staff. Big or small, even gum-wrapper size, each addition was molded and pressed around the growing sphere. I made the mistake of tossing it in the air and head-butting it once. Raised a goose egg on my forehead that had Matt laughing the rest of the day.

Matt would pause between pages of a demanding layout and press and mold that sphere with a grip that dwarfed most men’s. This was, after all, a guy who could bench 400-plus. That ball now sits as a reminder of the massive energy Matt poured into everything — his family, his friends, his faith, the pages of the Evangel.

Matt was solid. Anyone looking for some character weakness, something to call into question his unwavering love and service to Christ, would have had about as much chance as finding a cavity in that equally solid, carefully formed hunk of metal.

— Scott Harrup


Driving home from the hospital Sunday night, Sept. 28, a flood of memories wash over me. I’ve just left a pizza joint where a friend and I have been exchanging stories and insights of our friend Matt Key.

Time seems to stand still; my body feels distant. The memories flow in and out of each other. They range from Matt’s love of his favorite team, IU, Indiana University, to his “lake day” with the guys, to the wall of Mountain Dew cans in his office, to the numerous pranks he used to play on me and others, to his love and compassion for others.

That is probably one of Matt’s most endearing qualities. Sharing an office with him for five years has opened my eyes to his unbelievable life of giving to others. One minute he was helping a co-worker with spiritual advice, the next praising a family member for some achievement or working on projects for ministries with no pay involved. Matt and Robin also took in children who needed a helping hand.

He tirelessly poured his life into everyone around him. Our job now is to let that continue to flow out of us and into others.

Continuing my drive, I reach for the Kleenex. I pray for the family, and I pray for a peace that passes my understanding. I thank the Lord for a hope in tomorrow even when it seems hopeless today.

This will take some time.

— Marc McBride

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