About Matt

Baby Matthew

Matthew William Houlihan was born on November 5, 1980 at Salem State Hospital. His three older brothers, Dan (14), Mike (12), Sean (11) and his parents, William "Binny" and Liz Houlihan welcomed their new addition with loving arms. The family was living in Danvers, MA, at the time. His maternal grandparents, Harry and Dorothy Hunt, who were still living, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins greeted Matt with smiles and warm hearts.

A Baseball Player He Was Not

The family moved to Ridgefield, CT, and Matt attended kindergarten and played T-ball. His brothers, Mike and Sean, and their friends, Ed, Oger, Boss, Maco, Baker, and Greg, would come by after high school to watch practice. This show of brotherly support was short lived. While his teammates fumbled grounders in the infield, Matt could be found in the outfield playing with the grass. His lack of interest in all things baseball was obvious from the early days.

A Claim to Fame

In 1987 the family moved to Andover, MA, and Matt attended the Sanborn School. He went there from first to sixth grade. His claim to fame was that in second grade he and his best friends, Jesse (Gallagher) and Chris (Milmoe), had Mrs. Walsh for a teacher. Andover-native Jay Leno had the same Mrs. Walsh years before and this was a BIG deal to Matt. In those days he thought he was very funny and would naturally make his living as a comedian when he grew up. And those of us, who knew him, knew he never quite outgrew this belief. Mrs. Walsh was his favorite teacher, and he kept in touch with her for all his life. He also had special relationship with Sanborn School principal, Eileen Woods. Mrs. Woods, whose own brother battled leukemia, was there for Matt when his mother had a bout of breast cancer. The Sanborn years were wonderful.

New City, New School

In the fall of 1994, Matt and his family moved to New York City. Matt was enrolled at The Browning School for eighth and ninth grades. It was a K-12, all-boy-preparatory day school. He had to wear a jacket and tie and greet the Headmaster each morning at the front door. Browning was quite a switch. In his grade there were 24 boys. When his mother asked one afternoon if he had done his math homework, he replied that she needn't ask that question anymore because there were only 8 people in his math class and absolutely no one to hide behind; he was called on at least three times in every math class.

He was on the soccer, basketball and baseball teams. Matthew loved New York City. He and his brother, Sean, made the most of their time there. Matt wasn't the least bit intimidated by the crowds or the fast pace. He loved that you could get any type of food at the numerous ethnic takeout restaurants. He would give a homeless person a cup of coffee or bun, go to the museums and run in Central Park.

A Sport of His Own

Hamilton Crew

In 1996, Matt began his sophomore year at Tabor Academy, a small boarding school in Marion, MA. He joined the football team, began to explore his love of art, did a few radio shows, and rowed crew in the spring. His cousin Carter advised him to go out for crew because it would help him stay in shape for football. But Matt found true happiness in the eight-man boat. Crew changed Matt's life. At long last, the youngest of four brothers, had found his sport. He rowed all three years at Tabor, topping off his high school career in June of 1999 by rowing at Henley on the River Thames in England. His mom and his aunt Nancy made the trip to cheer on the Tabor crew. It was also at Tabor that he acquired his nickname, "Houli", which would follow him to college.

Summers of Work, Fun, and Friends

Four Brothers

During the summers, Houli worked at the Chart Room in Pocasset, MA. It was one of his favorite places. Two of his favorite jobs were washing dishes in which he proudly displayed his dried and cracked hands and making lobster salads. Matt saw himself as a teacher in the future and had finally found a dream job for the summers. The Jarvis family, Tom Gordon and all his friends at the Chart Room made his last two summers fun. Matt's picture hangs over the bar at the Chart Room.

College Bound

College Friends

In the fall of 1999, Houli went to Hamilton College, in Clinton New York. He loved Hamilton and he loved the friends there. He was the stroke on the Hamilton Crew team his first year and had a great coach, Joe Bilyea, and close crewmates. His favorite race was the Head of the Charles. His parents were so proud when he rowed on the Charles River. He loved Crew. It was everything to him.

Final Goodbye


With one year under his belt, Matt headed back to Hamilton in August to begin his sophomore year. He was looking forward to rooming with Ian Lawson, and spending time with another Tabor alum, Tracy Nichols, his best friend, and the whole gang of friends he had made the previous year. Many of whom had come to the Cape to visit him during the summer vacation. When October break rolled around, Houli stayed on campus to help clean the boathouse and help get things ready for the upcoming crew season. On October 2, he went to the coach's house for pizza and wings and then headed back to the dorm with Ian. He went to bed about 10:30 that evening. He never woke up.

Matt touched so many people in his life. Amazing for someone who died when he was just 19.


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