Blood drive held in memory of fallen Dolton firefighter

DOLTON, Ill. (WLS) -- A blood drive was held Friday in honor of Lawrence Matthews Jr., a Dolton firefighter who died battling a fire.

Whether it was playing Santa Claus for the village of Dolton or giving Halloween tours of the firehouse, Lawrence Matthews was known as someone who always gave back. Given Matthews' history as a transplant recipient and his strong sense of community, Matthews' widow says a blood drive is a perfect way to honor him.

For the first time since her husband's death in June, Rachel Matthews returned to the firehouse where he worked as a Dolton firefighter.

"I was up here quite a bit in and out. It's kind of surreal that he is not here, this was his home away from home," Rachel Matthews said.

Rachel was brought back to the Dolton Fire Station by a Lifesource blood drive in memory of her husband. It's been almost two months since Matthews collapsed while rushing to put out a rubbish fire that was spreading fast. The 35-year-old died of a heart attack.

"A line of duty death is a horrific event and something that we have to move forward with and try to turn that negative into a positive," Dolton Fire Chief Steve McCain said.

"I know this is something he would have been at had he had the opportunity," said Dominique Matthews, his sister.

Matthews participated in last year's blood drive. His family and his firefighter family say Matthews was a big proponent of giving blood. Ten years ago he needed it for a heart transplant. Rachel said her husband was all about giving back.

"Even in his death, he was all about giving back," she said. "He was able to donate bone and tissue for burn victims."

Around the firehouse, Matthews was known as "Iron Man." Rachel said he loved being the first in when fighting a fire, and if there was a limit, Lawrence pushed past it.

"One of the last things he was telling my 6-year-old was, 'I can't is not part of the vocabulary.' That is part of the person he was, he could do anything," she said.

Rachel Matthews tried to give blood on Friday, but could not because she had taken a trip to the Dominican Republican a few months ago. Despite some restrictions like that, Lifesource strongly encourages people to give blood during the summer when there are shortages.
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