Friends and family remember Matthew Harkenrider

The Fresno BeeAugust 23, 2014 

Hundreds of people filled Hope Lutheran Church and Cal Fire firefighters lined the aisles Saturday as Matthew Harkenrider's family members made their way to the front to remember the life of a father, husband, son, brother and friend.

Not a seat was left empty in the Fresno church and people lined the walls at the funeral for the 26-year-old Clovis man whose life was cut short Aug. 14.

Harkenrider was killed in a car accident on his way to work at Community Regional Medical Center when driver Roberta Lynn Soto ran a red light and smashed into his car. Harkenrider died at the scene, and Soto, who officials say was under the influence of methamphetamine and driving a stolen car, is facing gross vehicular manslaughter among other charges.

"The world says only the good die young, and today this is true," said Gayelee Reynolds, Harkenrider's longtime pastor.

Harkenrider grew up in Oakhurst and played baseball and football for Yosemite High School, where he graduated in 2007. He married his wife, Megan, in March 2013 and worked as a radiology technologist at Community Regional.

The Harkenriders recently bought their first home, went skydiving for their first wedding anniversary and learned Megan was pregnant with their first child. Harkenrider also had a daughter, Natalie, from a previous relationship.

At the service Saturday, Reynolds said she couldn't choose one word to describe Harkenrider.

"Matthew loved people. It didn't matter who you were, you were his family," Reynolds said.

Megan Harkenrider promised to pass on her husband's love of baseball to their unborn child.

"I promise you that he or she will be throwing strikes at the age of 2," she joked.

"You loved me in a way that every woman dreams of, even if it was only for a short time," she said. "I will never understand why a tragedy like this happened to such a loving, well-respected man."

Harkenrider's twin brother, Eric, recalled childhood memories as the other Harkenrider siblings, Vicki, Wendy and Adam stood by his side.

He recalled "twinning" moments with his brother, and how their baseball team had an unfair advantage against opponents because of their twin connection.

Images of Matthew Harkenrider as a baby and young boy played on a video screen, showing him in baseball uniforms and with his siblings.

Reynolds left the grieving crowd with a spiritual sports analogy:

"If I could give you something to take away from Matthew's heart ... I'd give you a baton," she said. "Matthew ran his race, and he ran it hard.

"Matthew would say, 'Take this baton and pass it on. Take it with both hands and run.' "


How to help

There are two ways to donate to funds benefiting Matthew Harkenrider's daughter and pregnant widow:

<SC120,116>Memorial fund: The bank account is at the Educational Employees Credit Union, under the name: Matthew Harkenrider Memorial Account #11956007. EECU members may contact the bank to transfer money to the memorial account; others may make a donation in person at any EECU branch. For more details, go to www.myeecu.org for contact information and branch locations.

<SC120,116>Fundraiser: Capo's restaurant, in the Park Place shopping center at Palm and Nees avenues, will donate 20% of its sales from 4 p.m. to close Tuesday to the memorial fund. The restaurant owners also will donate 20% of takeout sales that night. Reservations are recommended. A family friend of Capo's owners has pledged to match the donation. Harkenrider's twin brother, Eric, has worked for over a year at Giuseppe Gallo's in Clovis, another restaurant owned by the same family that owns Capo's.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or bvaccari@fresnobee.com.

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