SDJA remembers Matthew Beaver

Matthew Beaver’s closest friends could go on for hours recounting memories of him. The 17-year-old San Diego Jewish Academy student was remembered for his goofy sense of humor, his brilliance, his “godlike” skill on video games and his bravery.

Beaver died on Jan. 14 after a three-year fight with cancer and his bravery is his legacy.

“Matthew taught me about bravery,” Principal Jeff Davis said. “He never complained. He was more concerned about the people who were visiting him. It went beyond bravery for me, that’s when he became a hero.”

Beaver, a Poway resident, was diagnosed in 2005 with Ewing’s sarcoma, which is a rare disease found in the bone.

His friends, SDJA seniors Ben Adelman, Sam Dosick, Kevin Sherman, Aaron Berkovich said he never asked “Why me?” and always kept a positive attitude, even when he was forced to have his leg amputated in November of 2005.

The friends said the day he was to have his right leg amputated, Beaver hopped in on it, saying that he might as well get use out of it.

After two remissions, Matthew entered hospice care on Dec. 31, 2008. In those last few weeks, the friends said they all felt they had to see him as much as possible.

“Even though it’s cliche I felt like I had to see him and say ‘I’m glad you’re my friend,’” Sherman said. “You say that because you mean it.”

Along with their endless memories, Beaver left a big imprint on his friends’ lives.

“He taught me you can never take anything too seriously, you have to have fun,” Berkovich said. “If you can laugh at cancer, you can laugh at anything.”

“He taught me what we can endure,” Dosick said. “We have so much to live for. I know that Matthew didn’t have a lot of time but he made so much use of his time.”

Adelman remembers his last day with him, the Monday before he died. Adelman said it was quiet and peaceful and Matthew was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Matthew told Adelman that he was like “The Giving Tree” referencing the Shel Silverstein book about a tree that gives up everything it has for the friendship of a boy.

Adelman said going home that day, he realized he disagreed.

“It was Matthew that was the Giving Tree,” Adelman said. “He was the one who gave everyone the courage to live on. That’s what’s helping us deal with the loss of one of our best friends.”

Beaver had a close alliance with SDJA teacher Dustin Wood - they shared an affinity for X-Box.

“He was probably one of the most intelligent students I’ve known,” Wood said.

Beaver often had to be out of the classroom, in the hospital, but Wood said he kept up with his studies on his own, teaching himself. Wood said he’d come back to school not only ahead of the class but ready to teach others what he had learned.

Students rallied around Matthew, selling and wearing blue bracelets that supported him and making him posters and a “quote of the day” calendar to help cheer him in the hospital.

His friends said they visited often, to play video games and watch TV and movies. Berkovich always tried to bring him a good batch of cookies or brownies.

“They were quite good friends,” Wood said of the four seniors. “They really, really stuck with him.”

At his funeral at Adat Shalom in Poway on Jan. 16, they carried his casket.

“It was a very powerful and moving experience,” Adelman said thoughtfully. “It was the weight of it, that he was there and not there,” Sherman said.

Matthew Beaver is survived by a campus of friends and teachers; his parents Steven and Ellisa Beaver, and his sister Emily.