Denfeld News

August 26, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

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 exceptional person.

“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 Church.

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,” Smalley said.

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.

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