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In Memoriam: Matthew George Lightner

Matthew George Lightner passed away suddenly at home on Saturday, June 8, 2024. He was 59 years old.

Born August 7, 1964, in Willoughby, Ohio, Matt grew up in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. Matt served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and, after receiving his honorable discharge, attended Fresno State. While attending college, he spent his summers fighting fires in Yosemite National Park. After he graduated with a degree in history, Matt’s wanderlust brought him to Unalaska, AK in 1990, where he went to work in the Westward Seafoods Power House, met his future partner, and decided he’d found a home.

During his more than 30 years in Unalaska, Matt worked for several different companies, including Glacier Steel, Magone Marine (where he worked as a commercial diver, which he loved), North Pacific Fuel, the City of Unalaska, and, finally, the Unalaska City School District, which was his favorite job of all.

Matt joined the Board of Directors of Unalaska Community Broadcasting in the early 2000s and served almost 24 years, periodically serving as Board Chair. He was an active member of the Ballyhoo Lions Club for several years and was instrumental in organizing a local Soap Box Derby race. He also travelled with the local winners and families to the national Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. He served on the Unalaska Visitors’ Bureau Board for a term, and was involved, to some degree, with nearly every non-profit in town. Practically every USAFV fundraiser and community outreach event was successful, to some extent, because of Matt’s hard work and generosity of spirit.

Matt served as an assistant wrestling coach and as head wrestling coach for a few years during his tenure at UCSD, was involved with NYO, and really enjoyed working with young athletes and other coaches. He loved seeing their dedication and commitment to their skills, and he encouraged their sense of fair play and excellence.

An amateur but avid drummer and lover of music of all kinds, Matt played with several local bands over the years and was always up for playing music with anyone, at any time, and for any reason at all. He loved to fish and in 2017, after fighting for and gaining his sobriety, he finally bought his own boat. Perhaps his greatest joy was taking people out on the water; it didn’t matter if they caught anything or if they actually got to see whales (or even sea lions, Remy) – he just loved being out there and sharing the natural beauty of the place he was lucky enough to call home. In the last few years, he began playing around with wood and creating beautiful cutting boards; more recently he started making bowls. He took carving classes from famed carver Alfred Gosuk and learned about building niĝilax̂ from Marc Daniels. Matt was always trying something new, wanting to learn more, and generous with his time and talents.

Matt was a history buff who loved animals, and over the years shared his life with many Feline Overlords and several very good dogs. His “Feel-Good Friday” radio show on KUCB was de rigueur listening for many, many locals. Matt was the kind of person who said “yes” more than he said “no;” he would help just about anyone with just about anything. His enthusiasm was contagious, his kindness was legendary, and he always tried to see the best in people. He championed love, acceptance, and inclusivity, and loved people for who and what they are.

Matt was preceded in death by his brother Michael Lightner of Bakersfield, CA, and his best friend (and former “work wife”) Campbell McLaughlin, of Unalaska, AK. He is survived by his mother, Theda Lightner of Old Town, FL; brother, Mark Lightner and Mark’s wife Darcy of Molalla, OR; sister Charlene Lightner and Charlene’s partner Randy Reynolds of Las Vegas, NV; nephew Justin Wayne Lightner of Portland, OR; niece Chelsea Howard and Chelsea’s husband Calvin and son Kyler of Bakersfield, CA; niece Colleen Lightner of Portland, OR; niece Courtney Yaw and Courtney’s husband Jeff and son Parker of Molalla, OR; niece Tori Beck of Bakersfield, CA; grandnephew Logan Carabajal of Bakersfield, CA; nephew Travis Beck of Bakersfield, CA; niece Brittanie Howard and Brittannie’s husband Ernest and children Ivory and Thomas of Bakersfield, CA; niece Ashlie Lightner of Bakersfield, CA; nephew Bradshaw Lightner of Los Angeles, CA; his beloved Unalaska family, Peggy, Mackenzie, and Gannon McLaughlin; his Feline Overlord Mica Tolliver Lightner; and by his heartbroken spousal unit, M. Lynn Crane.

In lieu of flowers, Lynn requests that those who wish to honor Matt make a donation to Unalaska Community Broadcasting in his name. A memorial is planned for later in the summer.