MONONGAHELA – First responders from at least four states gathered in Monongahela Friday to pay their final respects to a paramedic killed in the line of duty.
For many of the hundreds who gathered, Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services Paramedic Supervisor Matthew Smelser was an instructor, mentor and friend. The 43-year-old father of two was treating a patient on Interstate 70 when a commercial vehicle struck him Sunday.
“Jesus said, ‘If you lose your life for my sake, I will save your life,’” the Rev. Richard Roberts said at his funeral.
Smelser’s casket was escorted to Rostraver West Newton Medic 509 by an honor guard to bagpipe music. His ambulance was draped with black bunting. Police, firefighters, EMS and others saluted as his casket was placed into Medic 509.
“His time on earth was not measured by his years on earth but by the way he lived,” Roberts said. The funeral was broadcast to hundreds standing outside in the rain who had come to honor and remember a man who dedicated his life to helping others.
Smelser’s wife, Lynn, leaned heavily on the arm of her escort as she saw the sea of people who came to honor her husband.
“Thank you all so much,” she said.
Adam Burke said many in the EMS community are devastated by the loss. Smelser was his instructor when he became an EMT.
“Matt was a wonderful man and talented paramedic that selflessly dedicated his life to the community,” he said. “He left behind not only a family with two beautiful children, but a family of hundreds of first responders. Though his life was cut short due to tragedy, the memories that we shared with him will last a lifetime.
“Matt was a healer, and he was good at it. This was evident by the numerous social media comments previous patients and family members shared. Let us, as first responders, never forget the sacrifice that Matt made and those who have fallen before us, doing what they love – serving the community.”
Smelser’s influence had a wide reach. Firefighters in Washington County also knew Smelser as their EMT instructor. Brian Matthews, an EMT with Ambulance & Chair Service in Washington and Ellsworth Volunteer Fire Department, said he credits Smelser with his skills in EMS.
When asked what Smelser meant to the community, he said, “There is just so much.”
Matthews will remember him as “a great friend and a great mentor,” he said.
“He was a very great instructor, a great paramedic and a great person,” he said.
About 250 vehicles from departments as far as Toledo, Ohio, and Braxton, W.Va., led Smelser to his final resting place, along with an honor guard from Boston, Mass. Ladder trucks from Rostraver Township and Carroll Township hoisted a U.S. flag above the road as the procession made its way to Monongahela Cemetery.
In a ceremonial dispatch from 911, Smelser’s dedication was memorialized over emergency response radios one final time on Friday.
“Matthew Smelser answered his last alarm on Jan. 5, 2020,” a dispatcher read on the scanner. “Paramedic Smelser served the Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services and community for 24 years. Paramedic Smelser will be deeply missed by his EMS community, family and friends. Paramedic Smelser completed his last alarm and has returned home safely to eternity and his final call to watch over his family, friends and EMS providers. May he protect us all from above, especially his wife, Lynn, son, Logan, and daughter, Adriana.”