Though confined to a wheelchair, Matt Miklas knew few limitations.
A scholar, an athlete, a traveler and a writer, Miklas endeared himself to many with his engaging wit and winsome personality, said those who knew him best.
Scheduled to graduate in December from Augusta State University with a communications degree, Miklas’ dream of writing professionally as a journalist won’t come to fruition.
Miklas, a former journalism intern with The Columbia County News-Times, died Wednesday from a massive pulmonary embolism. He was 23 years old.
Born with Spina Bifida, a condition in which the spine of a fetus fails to close properly, Miklas started using a wheelchair soon after others his age learned to walk.
“He never felt cheated (due to his condition),” Miklas’ mother, Kathy, said. “He had such a great spirit and was always determined to overcome no matter what the obstacle.”
Growing up, Miklas competed in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis and swam competitively.
He also was an avid follower of other sports, even writing sports stories for ASU newspaper The Bellringer.
“He got to go with the (ASU) golf team to Washington, D.C., when they met the president (after winning a national championship),” Ms. Miklas said. “He was so proud of that.”
Since Matt’s death, Ms. Miklas said she has received an outpouring of support from Miklas’ schoolmates and professors at ASU.
“It has really helped me get through this difficult time,” she said.
“Matt loved school and loved going to ASU. He loved so many people there and was loved in return.”
But Miklas’ affect on classmates and teachers extends even earlier than college.
Columbia County schools Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway served as Miklas’ principal at Riverside Middle and Greenbrier High schools.
After first meeting Miklas as a sixth-grader, Carraway said she formed an immediate attachment to him.
“He was very intuitive and kind; a gentle spirit,” she said. “I loved him. I think anybody who knew him loved him; he had such a good spirit.”
In middle school, Carraway said she picked Miklas to hit her in the face with a pie during a pep rally.
“He was my buddy and I thought he would take it easy on me,” she said while laughing. “I was wrong.”
Kathy Miklas said many others have similar fond memories of Miklas, but still she wants to make sure his name lives on in other ways.
Using what remains of his college fund, Ms. Miklas said she intends to start a memorial scholarship in Matt’s name for the ASU Communications and Professional Writing department.
Also, Miklas’ mother said he donated his corneas for use as transplants for the blind.
“Knowing that someone out there will be able to see because of him means a lot,” she said.
Miklas will be buried in New Jersey near his grandparents, Ms. Miklas said. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 7 at First Baptist Church of Augusta.