Magarbi Matthew of St. John was advancing rapidly in the U.S. Navy when he was killed in a traffic accident near Seattle, Washington where he was serving.
Magarbi McCullum Matthew, known affectionately as TJ, was remembered last week after he died February 16 in a fatal car crash in Washington state. Matthew, who was stationed at the USS Nimitz with the U.S. Navy, was on his way back to the base after taking friends home when he struck a tanker truck carrying liquid nitrogen, causing the truck to roll over onto his car. He died at the scene just before midnight.
Matthew, who was 22 years old, was an E-5, or petty officer second class, in the U.S. Navy. He’d reached this rank, which typically takes six years to achieve, in just three years.
“He was caring, loving, respectful, and humble,” said Matthew’s father, Thomas Matthew of Our Market Smoothies and Hospitality Car Rental. “He loved taking care of people.”
Friends of Matthew’s from the Navy brought his body home last week.
“He was pretty impressive as far as knowing what he wanted to accomplish,” said AO2 Marie Jackson. “I’d say he could accomplish anything and everything. He was a hard worker, always wanting to learn.”
Jackson recalled how Matthew motivated himself to rise through the ranks in the Navy. As an E-3, he pinned an E-4 insignia inside his uniform collar to remind him of what he hoped to achieve.
Matthew grew up on St. John, attending Julius E. Sprauve School and Gifft Hill School before graduating from Sts. Peter and Paul School on St. Thomas. Classmate Malik Stevens remembered Matthew as someone he respected.
“He was one of the few of us who was out doing something positive with his life,” said Stevens. “For it to be brought to such an abrupt and sad end really affected a lot of us who grew up with him. I was heartbroken that such a good guy with so much potential was taken from us so soon.”
Chief Recruiter for the Virgin Islands Richardson Lewis remembered Matthew as the first person he enlisted when he reported to the territory in 2010.
“He came into the office and he was a little bit overweight,” said Lewis. “I said, ‘Hey, you want to join the Navy, you lose 10 pounds and come back and see me.’ Within that month he came back into the office and he’d lost 15 pounds, so I knew this kid was for real.”
Matthew traveled from St. John three times a week to attend the Naval program on St. Thomas, and was on time more frequently than those who lived on St. Thomas, Lewis recalled.
“I knew there was something special about this one,” said Lewis. “One word to describe him would be ‘impressive.’ His initiative was something serious.”
In addition to his impressive drive, Matthew was remembered for being liked by everyone.
“He was well-loved,” said Thomas Matthew. “He did smoothies and worked the car rental with me, and he used to get more tips than me.”
Matthew’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday, March 8, at 10:30 a.m. at the V.I. National Park ball field. Everyone is welcome to attend.