Missing kayaker was to start career as nurse
Stephane Massinon, Calgary Herald
Published: Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A missing Florida man who was kayaking in Banff National Park was rewarding himself with a big trip before starting a new career, said his friends and family.
Matthew Andre Brown, 30, had just graduated with a nursing degree from a Florida university and had a job lined up at a hospital in Portland, Ore.
But before starting work, the mountain biking enthusiast wanted to take a three-month cycling trip from Anchorage to Portland with a female travel companion.
"This was his big fling before starting on his career," said Chip Sullivan, a mountain bike partner from Gainesville, the Florida city where Brown studied
Awed by the local scenery around Bow Lake and wanting to make some money, Brown and his travel partner got temporary jobs at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge north of Lake Louise.
On Saturday, Brown went kayaking when a sudden storm hit.
Brown hasn't been spotted since, though his kayak and supplies have been found. It is believed Brown was not wearing a life jacket when he suddenly decided to get a kayak.
Police categorize Brown as a missing person, but the official search for him has been called off. His parents are holding a memorial service for him this weekend.
Larry Brown, Matt's father, said his son was enjoying the trip tremendously.
"He thought he was in one of the most beautiful place he had seen," said Larry.
"He was absolutely loving it. He just felt alive."
Jordan McCann, a close friend in Portland who was supposed to meet up with Matt later in the trip, said his friend sounded especially upbeat while on his trip.
"He was at the pinnacle of life," McCann said.
"He always seemed to be the most invincible person to me."
Alexis Dold, Brown's former boss and a custom bicycle manufacturer, said Brown had been planning towards his big bike trip for over a year and Brown would have been well prepared for such a long venture.
No stranger to long cycles, Brown was known to bike between Florida cities over 160 kilometres apart.
He once cycled from Florida to New York City and was supposed to cross the country to make it to Portland, but a knee injury prevented him from doing so.
Brown's friends remember him as a very likable person with a great sense of humour.
"There's no exaggeration, I mean, he literally had an electric personality. It was not pretentious, it was very humble and very, very comforting to be around," said Paul Schmidt.
"He had a great sense of humour and an infectious smile and never had anything negative to say at all," Sullivan said.
"He was just a pure source of positive energy."
Dold said Brown was a great musician who dazzled audiences around Florida with his guitar playing. He played in a rock band but could also shine on the stage with nothing but his acoustic guitar.
His solo act Witness the Fitness was where he felt most at home.
"He can do stuff on guitar that many people in the world that are top-of-the-line guitarists cannot do," said Dold.
A memorial service will be held for Brown in Florida on Saturday, as will a separate memorial bike ride in his honour.
Dold said several hundred people have already committed to riding.
"He was a very well-liked person here in town," said Dold.