Moving tribute to Matthew Gowen as 13-year-old laid to rest

Hundreds drove into Veterans Memorial Park in York City on Saturday, Sept. 30, to assemble for Matthew Gowen's Ride Home. 

Motorcyles stretched the entire length of the parking lot — three to six rows across — and classic and sports cars, such as a bright red Lamborghini, lined up waiting to follow Matthew to the cemetery in a morning tribute.

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The 13-year-old Dover Intermediate School student was killed Thursday, Sept. 21, after being struck by a minivan while dragging an elliptical machine on South Salem Church Road in Dover Township

A vigil was held the following Sunday, and since then organizers have been planning the memorial ride.

Paul Day, a friend of Matthew's brother, Ray Cotton, reached out to Cotton after Matthew's death.

When Cotton told Day about Matthew's love for cars — especially his favorite, a Nissan GT-R — Day decided to call on his friend Brandon Mueller, who owned one, and ask him to help organize the tribute.

Mueller offered to give the family his GT-R emblem to fulfill Cotton's request for a piece of Matthew's favorite car to be buried with him.

Hundreds of motorcycles and cars follow the funeral procession for Matthew Gowen, 13, during Matthew's Ride Home in Dover, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Gowen was struck and killed by a car on Sept. 21. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"He liked bikes, he liked cars, anything that was fast," said Dominic Orwick, a good friend of Matthew's from school.

Dominic's father, Chris Orwick, added, "I'm overwhelmed by the support because when I was young, I lost my first friend when I was 13, as well," but it wasn't possible back then to organize something of this scale through social media.

"It's great that people can come together for kids," he said, noting that biker clubs that don't normally get along put aside their differences for the ride.

They all came to show their support, Chris Orwick said.

Most of the bikers are from York and surrounding areas, he noted, but some cars came from as far as Virginia. 

Twisted Throttle, City 2 City Street Burners, Christian Motorcyclists Association, Widow Sons Masonic Riders Association and York Motorcycle Club were some of the clubs in attendance. 

The Infamous Ryders, a biker club from York, knew Matthew through family and friends.

Melissa and Nate Richards rode in on a purple-and-red Harley-Davidson. Both longtime riders, they heard about the memorial ride through Facebook, and being from Dover, they felt it was important for them to be there to show their support.

York biker club, Infamous Ryders, stand with Chris and Dominic Orwick in Veterans Memorial Park in York before riding in tribute to Matthew Gowen on Friday, Sept. 30. (Infamous Ryders pictured: Wesso, Big Mike, Thor, Pony, Old School, Sunburn, Dre)

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The plan was to meet the family at Fourth United Methodist Church in York at noon, following a memorial service for Matthew, and join the procession to Salem Union Church Cemetery in Dover. 

The original route included a pass by the crash site, where South Salem Church Road intersects with Amy Avenue, but it was changed because of traffic, Mueller said.

The site has a display of flowers, tires, stuffed animals and a wooden cross in honor of Matthew.

Police had the route blocked off from York to Dover, and bystanders held up their phones and waved as the procession passed through. A few stood holding a sign that said, "Fly High Matthew."

When the procession arrived, the group drove past the cemetery for the tribute ride.

Family and friends looked on from the side of the road and the Salem United Church of Christ parking lot across the street.

A tribute at the site of the tragic death of Matthew Gowen, a 13-year-old Dover Township boy who was killed on Thursday, Sept. 21, near the intersection of South Salem Church Road and Amy Avenue.

Matthew's classmates from Dover Intermediate School stood on the roadside watching riders rev up their engines and peel out in succession.

"He would have loved it," said eighth-grader Tierra Willhite. "He'd be freaking out right now."

The family has a memorial fund in Matthew's honor, and donations can be made at PeoplesBank locations, according to the Dover Area School District website. 

The group also was raising money for the family at the event, and they planned to present it to them after the funeral to help offset costs.