Georgi

 Matt Georgi, of Manahawkin, died of an apparent heart attack on his 32nd birthday last month. He was a U.S. Army veteran training to run the LBI 18 Mile Run this Sunday to raise money to help other veterans at Rutgers University.

Matt Georgi didn't have the typical college-kid summer job - which makes sense, because he wasn't a typical college kid.

Georgi, of Manahawkin, did start college the same year he graduated from Southern Regional High School, 2000. But he went to The Citadel and "hated it," said his mother, Pat. He came back to Ocean County College, but after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Matt "dropped out and said, 'I'm going into the Army,'" she said.

He trained as a military analyst and served in Iraq, among other places. But in 2005, when his father, James, had "a near-fatal heart attack ... Matt decided he should be closer to home," his mom explained.

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He left the Army and went back to college. And that's when he started his unusual job on school breaks, working as an analyst for military contractors, once in Iraq and three times in Afghanistan, three to six months at a time.

"This was his summer job," Pat said. "He'd go there and save up money for school."

After one trip, Matt enrolled at Rutgers University and majored in history. He earned enough credits to walk with his graduating class in May - but had to finish a few electives to get his diploma.

So Matt was back at Rutgers last month, commuting from home to save money. But on Sept. 22, his 32nd birthday, his parents found him dead in his bedroom.

"They don't know the cause of death officially yet ... but since his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all had bad hearts, we're assuming it was probably a heart attack," Pat said, adding that her husband had his first heart attack at 35. "We know it wasn't foul play, it wasn't suicide, it wasn't an accident. And there was no alcohol or drugs."

Being a veteran was important to Matt, so he gravitated to Rutgers' Veterans House. Stephen Abel, Rutgers' director of military programs and services, knew Matt as a work-study student for two years; his job was helping other vets adjust to college life.

"He had a huge heart, he was easy to talk to, approachable, and showed a deep-down concern for helping his fellow vets," Abel said.

During his Veterans House time, Matt needed a "small amount of money from the Veterans Emergency Grant and Scholarship Fund," Abel added. To show his appreciation, Matt had decided to do this Sunday's LBI 18 Mile Run to raise money for the emergency fund. He did the run last year too and was training hard when he died, his mom said.

He had an online campaign going at gofundme.com/42wvng, with a $2,500 goal. After he died, Veterans House friends agreed to run in Matt's memory - and as of Monday, Abel counted about 50 people signed up to do that. The pledges to Matt's campaign were at $7,000 and counting, his mom said.

Contact Martin DeAngelis:

609-272-7237

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