August 26, 2011
Duluth teen athlete
remembered for dedication
By Kevin Pates
Jessica Kero spoke eloquently of her brother on
a day when words were difficult.
On Thursday morning, as 18-year-old Duluthian
Matt Kero was laid to rest, she said it was a time to remember an
“Don’t cry because he’s gone,
smile because we knew him,” said Jessica Kero, 15, a Duluth
Denfeld High School sophomore. “He was an all-around great
kid who always saw the positive in everything.”
Matt Kero, a captain in cross country, hockey
and track in 2010-11 as a Duluth Central senior, was eulogized at
Mitchell Auditorium on the St. Scholastica campus. An overflow crowd
of nearly 800 family and friends attended the funeral Mass, officiated
by the Rev. William Fider, pastor of St. Lawrence’s Catholic
Kero died in his sleep at home Monday and an autopsy
did not reveal a cause. His death has been listed as from natural
causes. He was enrolled at St. Scholastica and was to have joined
the cross country team this week for the start of practice.
One of Kero’s running heroes, Steve Prefontaine,
a star track runner from Oregon, who died in a car accident at age
24 in 1975, received mention for his determined attitude.
“Steve Prefontaine said that ‘To give
anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,’ and
that’s how Matt ran,” said Jessica Kero, a Denfeld cross
country runner. “He ran every day he possibly could, and now
we say, ‘Run in peace.’ ”
Matt Kero earned 13 varsity letters at Denfeld
and Central, and ran in three Minnesota Class AA high school cross
country meets, and in two events in the 2011 Class AA track meet,
including the 1,600-meter run. He was the top boy finisher from
Northeastern Minnesota in the 2011 state cross country meet. He
also played four years as a Denfeld and Central hockey defenseman.
The list of attributes was long as friends described
him as humble, kind, honest, tough, fearless and considerate, and
a self-motivated leader.
“He never failed to show how much he cared
for everyone,” said classmate Keeley Norton. “He got
through hard times with poise and never gave up. He was a good student,
he was polite and had determination.”
Fider quoted from John 11:1-45 about Lazarus,
who died at a young age, but whose family was reassured by Jesus
about eternal life and quoted from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 about running
the race of life to earn a crown that lasts forever.
Classmate Jeff Ohaju, a football player and track
athlete, remembered Kero as someone with an excellent sense of humor.
Denfeld hockey coach Kevin Smalley said he asked
Kero to move from forward to defense as a ninth-grader and Kero
responded by saying he would do anything to help the team.
“He was every coach’s dream player,”
Ronn Tomassoni, who coached Kero in youth baseball
and in hockey at Denfeld, said: “He was a tremendous role
model. He had purpose.”
Kero, the middle of three children of Tom and
Mary Kero, received a final stick salute from Denfeld’s hockey
players as his casket was taken from Mitchell Auditorium.
“Matt was able to develop the talents God
gave him. He could run fast and skate, and was a good brother and
son,” Fider said.