Family, friends remember the life of Matthew Gerdisch

Austin Benavides, Campus Editor

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It was in a car ride with Lori Ann, his mother, when Matthew Gerdisch asked her, “What do you think life will be like in 50 years or 500 years on Earth?”

When his father recounted the story, he said his wife was unsure of the future, especially because of all the current problems in the world, but he said Gerdisch wasn’t as uncertain — he said he knew life was going to be great.

In the last six months before he died as a result of a rhythmic heart condition, the Zionsville, Ind. native was set on the future. Working alongside his father, Dr. Marc Gerdisch, the junior was speaking with one of the world’s premier electrophysiologist and heart surgeons, Mark La Meir, to develop a training fellowship that would mimic his work and further the research of heart arrhythmia, an affliction Gerdisch himself faced.

Gerdisch had also aced a physics exam just before the start of winter break, and his family planned to take a trip to Cabo. On the morning of Dec. 14, he had packed to go to New York to visit his long-time girlfriend, Samantha Hogshire, who his family and friends said was “the love of his life” when Gerdisch passed away.

“There’s just the tiniest, tiniest bit of solace that you get when you know that your son was happy, accomplishing, doing things he wanted to do, enjoying the people he wanted to be with,” Marc said. “What he lived in 20 years, he lived beyond what so many people live their whole lives.”

As a child, Gerdisch was constantly finding ways to express himself, his father said. At the age of three, Gerdisch began acting and worked in a slew of productions, ranging from commercials to theater to independent films. He even recorded a voice-over for the Lurie Children’s Hospital.

He would use the money he got from acting to help buy himself a BMW, one of his most cherished possessions. His older brother, Robert Gerdisch, described him as “kind of a legend” among his friends in the driving scene. He was “unflinchingly” bold in handling any kind of risk, Robert said, especially when it came to drifting.

“Matthew was uninhibited by a lack of confidence,” Robert said. “He was just made of it. And I think that transfers into the way that Matthew was so impressed by people and unafraid of showing how impressed he was.”

He never settled on one goal, and “his hobby was that he didn’t have one,” his brother said, and if Gerdisch set his sights on something, there was almost no question that he would get it done.

When he became interested in scuba diving, he became a PADI certified diver in the third grade, diving from Maui to the Bahamas. And when Taekwando became an interest, Gerdisch would earn his way to a black belt.

Decorating Gerdisch’s room was a collection of experiments that he had completed or planned to. Often, his bathroom sink held gunpowder residue, because it was a private space to set something ablaze and he had easy access to water when something inevitably burst into flame.

On one occasion, his brother said he remembered Gerdisch walking into the house, firecrackers in one hand and a blowtorch in another. Gerdisch’s best friend and roommate for the past three years, McCormick junior Nico Biagioni, remembered another time when Gerdisch invited him to see him test setting some flash paper aflame. The paper quickly lit up, singeing a few hairs, Biagioni said.

“(Matthew) wants to make people laugh and happy, and he wants to bring them on this adventure with him,” Robert said, “And he knows that they might not want to do something and so he’s going to do it in front of them anyway so they can kind of get the second-hand experience and sort of bond over that.”

At the age of 14, Gerdisch met his girlfriend, Samantha Hogshire. Shortly after meeting, both realized how much they had in common — down to sharing the same birthday — she said.

Before going to college, they road tripped around Indiana, ate Thai food and travelled together. But after Gerdisch left to Northwestern and Hogshire went to Pratt Institute, they still kept their strong bond, she said.

They’d Skype each other as often as they could, and Gerdisch would call her while he biked to class. A physical token of their emotion was the same piece of letter they sent back and forth between Evanston and Brooklyn. Gerdisch and Hogshire added Post-it Notes, what she called “little love letters”, onto the original document. He sent his last Post-It a week before he passed.

“He was fearless with me,” Hogshire said. “He was shameless with me. And, you know, he never doubted me, even in the moments that I should have been doubted. He never doubted any of my actions or thoughts or anything. So that’s just something that I’m forever grateful for.”

She added that “there are no words” that can fully capture who Gerdisch was, and that his life is worth “a thousand articles.”

When Medill sophomore Gia Yetikyel was having a bad day during the fall quarter of her freshman year, she met Gerdisch for the first time.

“Matt was a teddy bear,” Yetikyel said. “When he hugged you, he’d lift you off the ground, and you felt safe. When you were in Matt’s presence, it was like nothing could go wrong and if something did go wrong, he would fix it because he always knew how to handle everything. Honestly, I think Matt was the most immortal person I knew. He had so much life in him. I was excited for him to live it. “

Gerdisch’s dream school was Northwestern.

At a young age, he accompanied his father to the lectures of Feinberg Prof. James L. Cox, where he asked the heart surgeon impressive questions, Marc said.

This led to his decision to pursue biology physiology with an emphasis in a pre-med major at NU, where he applied early decision.

This was unknown to his best friend, Biagioni, who also applied to NU early after both decided to take a break from revealing their choice schools during the application cycle. Right when Biagioni thought to tell his friend about his admission, his phone began to ring. It was Gerdisch, calling to let him know that he had been accepted to NU.

Since then, both of them were roommates, moving together into campus dorms and then moving off campus in the past year.

“That’s really the biggest testament of Matthew, is that he was the same no matter who he was with,” Biagioni said. “You know, everybody knows about his humor, his kindness, his love of food and the spontaneity and the kind of randomness with which he went about his life, taking up any opportunities that he could.”

Following his passing, the Gerdisch family founded the Matthew “Gerdy” Gerdisch Foundation. The foundation will benefit students attending Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, where he was a student. The fund will gift scholarships to graduating seniors who reflect the informal values that Gerdisch had, like spreading happiness to those around him.

Email: austinbenavides2022@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @awstinbenavides

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