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Matt’s birthday: Everybody loves him – he’s a ‘portable party’

February 27th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Story and photos by Stephanie Zollinger

LOGAN — “Hello, cute darling Mom!” Matt Hillyard says to his mother, either on the phone or in person.

At age 36, Matt has gathered as many friends as someone much older would have. March 1 is his birthday and Sunday was his birthday party, where well over 100 guests arrived to show their love and support.

“Matt’s birthday is great because you can see his great influence over everyone,” Brent Robinson said.

“Matt always has a smile, knows everyone’s name and gives them each a hug,” Joe Blanch said. “I don’t know anyone with as much love as he has. It is amazing how he can love everyone. He is a wonderful young man.”

Every year Matt has a birthday party and invites all his friends to come. Everyone is special to Matt. “He is so warm and open. He cares about everyone. I have a son and parents on missions and he always asks about them,” Ruth Harrison said.

Isaac Harrison added, “He is fun to be around. Always asks me how I am doing and cares.”

“Everyone loves Matt,” said Stan Albrecht, president of Utah State University. “He is a great Aggie fan and a great friend. He lifts our spirit.” Albrecht and his wife, Joyce, gave Matt a basketball signed by the entire USU basketball team and coach. Matt was so happy and promised not to let anyone play with it.

As each new guest arrived Matt greeted them with a smile and a hug, saying something like “I miss you” or “My Brother!” or “Hey cutie pie!” but whatever is said he means.

“Every time I see him he makes me feel so welcome and like I’m his best friend,” Schonie Erickson said. “Whenever I have a bad day I can call Matt and he will make it all better.”

Matt is known for his love and endearing friendships. His neighbor Jane said, “He always remembers our names. He cares about everyone and wants to know how you are doing. He has an amazing memory. Anyone who knows him knows why we love him. He’s darling!”

Emma Rae Eyre, and elderly woman in the area said, “He is always happy. He always brightens my day and is always smiling. That is really special.”

Matt loves so many people and loves to do things with them. If you get a chance to take Matt to a play you are in for a treat. He loves to get a program and read through all the names and no doubt he will spot someone he knows who is in the play. During the play, at all the right parts, Matt will laugh or be sad or be excited, but on the way home you will hear all his favorite songs. Matt loves to sing.

“He remembers everything and everyone,” Jessica Loveland said.

Remembering names is one of Matt’s many talents. Several people commented on that and said that is why they love him. “[I love Matt] because he loves me. Matt is very spiritual and I think I am very drawn to that,” Roxie Ashby said.

Sharon Hunsaker, a close friend, came all the way from Salt Lake City to attend this party. “I’ve known Matt many years. Matt and his mother go to lunch with me in Salt Lake City. He calls me ‘Tall Man’s Wife.’ He is so fun to be around.”

“I love it when he calls Alice ‘cute darling mom’ and when he prays for her three or four times in one prayer,” Kira Norr said. She has known Matt for the past few years and helps Alice, his mother, when she has places to go and needs someone to take care of Matt. “Matt always wants to be in the fun. He is like the life of the party.”

Matt is a portable party, wherever he goes there is fun to be had. Some of the places that he loves to go, along with plays and other performances, are bowling, restaurants, church activities or anywhere there are people. Everywhere Matt goes he ends up having several people come up and ask him how he and his family are doing. He loves to play games. Among his favorites are Apples to Apples, Trivial Pursuit (Disney), and Karaoke. “He can go for hours singing along to his favorite songs, and dedicates his favorites to all his friends and family” Melanie Gines said with a smile. Melanie has known Matt for the past eight years and she considers him part of the family.

Matt also loves to watch Matlock and, when he can, will eat a hotdog while watching. He also watches Murder She Wrote and Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Any time his father, Lyle Hillyard, who is currently one of Utah’s state senators, is on TV Matt cheers him on from his front room chair. Along with hotdogs Matt loves hamburgers, soda, ice cream, pancakes, cheesecake, pie, chicken, and salad with ranch dressing. Any time you take Matt out on the town, or if he takes you it is a special experience that you will never forget. Matt makes you feel like a thousand bucks.

Matt threw his hands up in the air and quickly went up to Lynn Wright when he entered the party. “We get that greeting every time we see him,” said Wright, who has known Matt for over 20 years and has had lots of fun with him. “I work for the USU Police. I got to know Matt through church and being his neighbor. He loves the police officers. Every once in a while I would come and take him for a drive in my police car. He loves it! I love him because he is so down to earth, cool, and a neat guy. Matt is so up front and pure, no guile, and finds fault with no one.”

“These parties are fun every year,” said Renee Ault, a close and long time friend. “I was Matt’s Primary teacher for a few years while growing up. He is just so loveable. When he was in my class he would always take part and was willing to learn. Just before I got released from Primary we did a Christmas program. Alice did a poem and Matt signed. It was so touching. The kids loved it. I think the word spread through the whole ward of how touching it was.”

At the end of the party, while Matt was with some friends, his parents were saying goodbye to a group that was leaving. In their short discussion they mentioned how amazing it was that even though there were over 100 people that came, Matt will be able to list those he invited and didn’t come.

And he will remember, too. Lyle shared, “one of our neighbors helped us get ready. We thanked him for helping and asked if we would see him at the party. The neighbor answered, ‘I can’t miss this party or Matt will remind me for the next three months that I missed it.’ And it is true. Matt remembers who comes and who doesn’t. It is a special gift he has.”

If you haven’t had the chance to meet Matt Hillyard it isn’t too late. If you need a friend don’t hesitate to talk to Matt. He is a prized gem in this community and someone we all can learn from. He has made a difference in so many lives and he can in yours, too.


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