Richards High School Guidance Counselor John Kocher is looking for some memories and stories.
His 15-year-old son, Matt, died Saturday afternoon from what appeared to be a drowning accident in Lake Michigan near New Buffalo, Mich., and during a prayer service for the family at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Orland Hills Monday night, he spoke to the crowd of hundreds and sought other perspectives from mourners on his son’s life.
“Matt’s in a better place,” he said. “Please let us hear your relationship with Matt. We would love to hear that. If you don’t want to talk to us, go on Facebook. Go on any of those other Twitters or whatever.
“There is so much about Matt...we had him for 15 years and I couldn’t dream of a better kid. Please remember us in your prayers and let us know the story of Matt and always keep him in your heart and keep us in your heart.”
The wake will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today, Thursday, at Sheehy and Sons Funeral Home, 9000 W. 151st St., in Orland Park. A funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. at Seton Church, 9300 W. 167th St., in Orland Hills.
The Kocher family lives in Tinley Park and Matt attended Andrew High School, but he was also part of the Richards High School community. Matt volunteered for the school’s Special Olympics events for 10 years, according to news reports.
Matt, who completed his freshman year in May, was an honors student and three-sport athlete who played football, basketball and volleyball.
He was swimming at the New Buffalo City Beach on Saturday and lifeguards entered the water at 3:30 p.m. to assist Matt, who was in distress, according to news reports. He was rescued and transported to a hospital in Michigan City, Ind. and airlifted to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where doctors pronounced him dead at 8:21 p.m. Police said that waves reached as high as five feet that day and red flags indicating high risk for swimming were present.
He was the second person to die in Lake Michigan on Saturday and reportedly the 17th to die in the lake since June 6.
Classmate Danny Walsh said at the prayer service that Matt was the “kid with the smile on his face” and Stephanie Rivera said on Facebook “He could light up any room with that smile.”
Seton pastor Rev. William Corcoran — formerly of St. Linus church in Oak Lawn — said he did not know Matt but was impressed with the hundreds of friends who showed up for the prayer service.
“We celebrate what true friendship is like tonight,” he said. “We rely on each other to see us through a dark day.”