A Father Buries His Only Son, An Island Loses a Shining Young Man

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The future final resting place of Magarbi “TJ” McCullum Matthew will have beautiful views of Cruz Bay harbor.

Thomas Matthew was gazing at the morning bustle on Cruz Bay from the roadside above the quiet, sun-dappled cemetery sloping down to the waterfront early on the morning of February 24, envisioning the view his 22-year-old son, Magarbi McCullum “TJ” Matthew, would have from his final resting place.

“He was my only son,” Matthew said of the oldest of his three children, his voice wavering.

“He liked to be called ‘TJ’ for Thomas Junior,” his father recalled with his familiar smile easing his somber demeanor.
TJ was killed in a February 16 automobile accident near Seattle, Washington, where he had been serving in the U.S. Navy.

TJ and his father created Our Market Smoothies, the colorful oasis in downtown Cruz Bay across from the U.S. Post Office. Together they made Our Market and Hospitality Car Rental into a shaded gathering spot for visitors and residents with TJ working with his father there after school and on weekends and holidays.

“Spitting Image” of His Father
“He was the spitting image of his father,” one business owner said of TJ.

TJ soon was helping to run the business with the same style as his father — the same heartfelt, friendly service and purposeful business sense.

“When he came back for Christmas and New Years, I was late opening up one day,” Matthew recalled of his son’s first visit home in December after three years in the U.S. Navy. “He said, ‘Daddy consistency is the key to success in business.’”

TJ had stayed in the states since his enlistment in order to study to continue advancing in rank and most recently had achieved a promotion which normally would take six years, his father proudly noted.

“He said ‘Daddy if I keep working I can make Chief,’” Matthew said with obvious pride at his son’s accomplishments.
Matthew will be going to Washington state in early March to attend military services honoring TJ.

March 8 Service at VINP Field
A  military color guard from Puerto Rico is scheduled to participate in a service for Magarbi “TJ” Matthew at the V.I. National Park ball field across from Mongoose Junction on March 8 at 10:30 a.m.

“The church would be too small,” TJ’s father said of the turnout expected to welcome TJ home.

TJ will be buried next to his grandmother, Aurelie Doreen Matthew, in the center of the Cruz Bay cemetery with a clear view of the ferries coming and going from the Cruz Bay dock — the ferries which took TJ from his home island to success in his short U.S. Navy career.

“She raised him,” Thomas said, taking some comfort in knowing TJ will be with his grandmother.