Matt Camp battles to the end
Gilmer says goodbye to fallen young leader
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Oct 02, 2009 | 3768 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy Photo<br>
MATT CAMP is seen here speaking at a banking conference. He was a graduate of both Texas A&M University and of the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking.
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Watch Matt Camp's Sermon - Jesus Calms The Storm

Matthew Carroll (Matt) Camp, Gilmer civic leader, banker, school board member and Internet play-by-play announcer for Gilmer High School football games, died peacefully at his home Thursday morning after a 3-year battle with cancer. He was 38.

Funeral services are set for 2 p.m. Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Gilmer with Jeff Rash, church pastor Rev. Todd Kaunitz, former FBC pastor Dr. David L. Jenkins and the Rev. Lee Tyson officiating.

Because of the expected overflow crowd, Rash said, the service will be telecast in the church’s large fellowship hall for those who cannot be seated in the church sanctuary. Camp, a deacon at First Baptist, had surrendered to the ministry only weeks before his death, preaching his first sermon at the church.

Burial will be in Little Mound Cemetery in rural Upshur County. Visitation is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday (today) at Croley Funeral Home.

Camp, a Gilmer native and a vice president of Gilmer National Bank, had fiercely battled his cancer, which began as melanoma before spreading to his lymph nodes. After they were removed, the malignancy spread to his lungs and liver, according to his long-time close friend and fellow school trustee, Rash.

Only Tuesday night, Camp was returned home from a Tulsa, Okla., hospital after his condition had deteriorated rapidly from Sunday onward, said Rash. After arriving here late that evening, the stricken banker was able to say goodbye to his only living child, his 9-year-old son Cade, Rash said.

Camp slipped into a coma two hours before dying about 10 a.m. Thursday, surrounded by his family, friends and a hospice nurse who were jointly singing Amazing Grace, said Rash, who was present.

Only 13 days earlier, on Sept. 11, Camp climbed steep stands at a Texarkana football stadium to make his last online broadcast of a Gilmer Buckeyes game, a 35-17 come-from-behind Gilmer victory over host Liberty-Eylau.

With his team trailing 10-9 at halftime, Gilmer Coach Jeff Traylor had cited Camp’s gallant fight against his lethal disease to inspire the Buckeyes to a winning second-half comeback. Camp also had broadcast Gilmer’s season-opening 42-14 victory over Jasper at Nacogdoches on Aug. 28, but missed the Buckeyes’ two other games this season before his death.

For some time, Camp underwent periodic treatment at the famed M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. When that hospital said it could do no more for him, he went to Tulsa two days after the Liberty-Eylau game and underwent medical tests last week while staying in a motel, according to Rash.

Last Saturday, “he was fine,” but began feeling ill Sunday and was admitted to the hospital, Rash said. On Monday, Rash and five other friends of Camp’s from Gilmer went to bring the dying community leader home to bid his young son goodbye.

According to Rash, Camp told Cade he was proud of him and that he “didn’t care whether he wins or loses as long as he always does his best.” Matt Camp also told his son—who he had baptized only four weeks earlier—that “it’s so important to love people,” Rash said.

Coach Traylor gave young Cade his first quarterbacking lesson Thursday, and the boy was scheduled to call the coin toss at the Gilmer-Daingerfield game between two No. 1-ranked teams here last night (Friday), said Rash.

Rash is public address announcer for Gilmer home football games, and Matt Camp, a former Buckeye quarterback, would normally have done the play-by-play over the Internet with color commentary from his announcing partner, Todd Robison.

As of this month, he had been employed at Gilmer National Bank for 13 years.

Camp was the only child of retired longtime Gilmer Elementary School Principal Harmon (Pat) Camp and his wife, Beth. In addition to Cade, Matt Camp and his wife, Deidra Long Camp, had a son, Andrew Hope Camp, who was stillborn about five years ago.

Rash noted that he, Matt Camp, and Robison were part of a 6-man group of lifelong friends that had started school together in Gilmer, graduated here together; and who had “all fought like tigers to stay right here (in Gilmer) together,” turning down jobs elsewhere. The other friends are Mark Skinner, Joe Dodd and Greg Laney.

Rash said Friday the group wanted to rear their children together. He noted Camp had baptized Rash’s daughter, Brinkley Rash, at the time the banker baptized Cade.

“We’ve literally known each other since 1975 or 1976,” Rash said of the group. “We’ve done everything together. We went to school together. We played ball together...We all were in each other’s weddings.

“We were there for the firstborn of each of our children....Every Christmas, we’re together like a band of thieves or something, band of brothers,” he said. The group also enjoyed cookouts at each other’s homes, and “our kids all think we’re brothers,” so they call their fathers’ friends uncle, Rash added.

“And now everywhere you look, there’s going to be a lot of empty seats to fill because Matt did so much stuff.”

Robison and Skinner, who sat with Rash and Camp in the press box at Buckeye games, were among those present when Camp died Thursday morning. The death had such an impact on the community that KLTV (Channel 7) in Tyler came to do a story on the late banker.

Rash said that facing imminent death, Camp “had a lot of wisdom to impart...He knew what priorities mattered and which ones didn’t.”

“He was the most unselfish and loving person I ever met,” and wouldn’t speak ill of anyone, Camp’s friend added. Rash added that he had witnessed Camp’s life for 33 years, and that he never strayed from his Christian faith.

Rash recalled that the banker, Diedra, and Cade had met Texas Rangers baseball player Josh Hamilton, Cade’s hero who had overcome a drug problem and authored a book.

When they gathered at The Ballpark in Arlington, Hamilton signed a bat and glove, presented them to Cade, and gave the family copies of his book, according to Rash.

Hamilton then asked Matt who his favorite baseball player was. When Camp said Nolan Ryan, Hamilton, who’d been tipped off to that fact, produced a baseball autographed by the former great major league pitcher.

According to Rash, Camp asked Hamilton, “Josh, can we pray for you?” and Hamilton replied, “You sure can.” Photographs were taken of the group prayer.

Visitation will be Saturday, Sept. 26, from 4 until 6 p.m. at Croley Funeral Home in Gilmer. Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the First Baptist Church of Gilmer.

The family requests memorials be made to Matt’s House, c/o Kinsman Foundation, 219 W. Butler, Gilmer, Texas 75644 , or Matt Camp Ball Park Fund, c/o Gilmer National Bank, P.O. Box 460, Gilmer, TX 75644.

Matt Camp
Copyright 2014 The Gilmer Mirror. All rights reserved.
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