LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Matthew Uhl’s 20-year-old sister, Caitlyn, and her friends played a slideshow Wednesday on laptops set on the hoods of four cars in the Pinelands Regional High School parking lot.
The crowd cried and laughed and smiled at images of the 22-year-old Rowan University student, who was remembered by about 200 friends and family at the candlelight vigil at the school where he graduated in 2009.
Uhl died Friday afternoon at Cooper University Hospital from injuries he sustained after being hit by a car on State Street in Glassboro at 12:30 a.m. Friday morning. Uhl was set to graduate from Rowan in one month with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship.
A vigil was held Tuesday evening at Rowan. Matthew Uhl’s father, Albert, said about 2,000 people attended. Matthew was the treasurer of the Mu Alpha chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Rowan.
On Wednesday evening at Pinelands Regional High School, friends and family members wore black T-shirts with the name Uhl across the shoulders and his football jersey number — 89. On the front of the T-shirt was a star that resembled the star that Matthew had tattooed on his shoulder.
Caitlyn Uhl organized Wednesday’s vigil and wore a Miami Dolphins baseball hat that belonged to her brother.
“A heart of gold stopped beating and two twinkling eyes closed to rest. God broke our hearts to prove he only took the best,” she said of her brother when she addressed the crowd during the vigil.
Dawn Uhl said she couldn’t speak at the vigil at Rowan on Tuesday night, but Wednesday she thanked the crowd of friends and family for coming to remember her son. She said her son touched the hearts of so many people that she didn’t even know.
“The amount of people who attended the vigil last night was like nothing I had ever seen before. I’m not one to brag about my kids, but after this I really need to brag,” she told the crowd.
Over the days since her son’s death, she said, she has laughed with his friends about his smile, his hair, his teeth, his stories and his “one-liners”.
The emotions in those days have made her cry, laugh, smile and worry, she told the crowd.
“And emotions that make me wonder and that leads to questioning why. Why Matthew? Why my son, who had so much going for him in every part of his life,” she said.
Like a large team, the crowd then made its way over to the football field where they stood in a circle under bright lights holding red burning candles.
This was the same field where Matthew Uhl played football years before, where his father said he cheered him on. He would then go on to play football at Rowan, Albert Uhl said.
But Wednesday evening the bleachers were empty, the concession stand closed and it will be months before the new varsity team takes to the field.
“It was really a blessing to be with Matt the other day and hold his hand when he passed,” Chuck Uhl said.
The vigil ended with Matthew’s cousin leading the crowd in the Lord’s Prayer.
“We were inseparable in high school. We had the same smile, the same brown eyes. He was an amazing person and had so much going for him,” Caitlyn Uhl said after the vigil.
Glassboro police found Uhl unconscious and unresponsive on State Street at 12:30 a.m., Friday. Police said that the driver allegedly involved in the crash, Derrick D. Gilliam and the vehicle were at the scene.
According to police, Gilliam, of Bridgeport, Conn., “had an odor of alcohol on his breath” and there was an open bottle of vodka vehicle’s back seat floor. Once police transported Gilliam to police headquarters, they said he allegedly “refused to cooperate with the DWI investigation.”
Gilliam was charged with obstruction of administration of justice and he was transported to Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Washington Township for a mandatory blood specimen withdrawal. Gilliam is now in the Gloucester County jail on $25,000 full cash bail, police said.
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