CID 2016 award winner Matthew Felton seriously injured in Milwaukee explosion
Matthew’s Works is a tiling service and interior design studio in Bayview, Wis. It’s run by Matthew Felton, who in addition to his gift for tile design and installation, is an outdoorsman, hiker, biker, volleyball player, active in camping and kayaking, and papa to two beloved dogs, Bear and Sheba. He’s also an active member of St. Lucas Lutheran Church in Bayview/Milwaukee – and a cherished member of the online Facebook groups, Tile Geeks, Global Tile Posse and Tile Misfits.
In 2016, Matthewsworks LLC received an Honorable Mention, Residential Stone Design for a Milwaukee custom high-end lighted onyx mosaic masterbath project – a combination he specializes in – combining beautiful stone with interior illumination. He’s a frequent presence at industry events, especially Coverings, where he also entered the TileLetter Awards in 2008 with his Toman Dolphin Fibonacci project.
And then on the fateful afternoon of Tuesday, July 18th – just two days before his 46th birthday –Matt and his close friend, Jason Ermi, were severely injured in an explosion at a Milwaukee-owned natural gas compression pump when Matt and Jason stopped to fill up Matt’s natural gas-powered van.
The explosion filled the air with natural gas, and passersby risked their own lives to pull Matt away from the pump. The explosion had blown Jason a distance from the pump, and embedded asphalt into his skin. At the same time, it mangled Matt’s legs, leading to massive bleeding.
Matt and Jason were both rushed to the hospital. Matt underwent immediate surgery that resulted in amputation of both his legs at his knees. Jason underwent immediate surgery on his right leg, which is broken, and was treated for 4th-degree burns among other injuries. By God’s Grace, they are both still with us.
Matt is now home, after 13 surgeries and 32 pints of blood, tending to the excruciating process of wound care as he heals. He has a long road of recovery and physical therapy ahead of him.
But his strong faith and unflappable attitude has him looking ahead to a trip to the Amazon rainforest next year, redirecting funds paid for a 15-day hiking trip in Nepal, including an overnight at Everest’s base camp which he had planned to embark on this September 15.
His faith has led him to “not only accept [the situation] but embrace it and claim it as my own,” he says. “It’s my mission. My message is to use this as an opportunity – this is what God gave me to be a witness for him.”
He explained that when he goes out in public now, “people don’t know how to act, they look at me” he said. “I break the ice; I bring it up and make light of it. It helps everyone else.”
Maybe not surprisingly, Matt felt a slight sense of relief after the explosion as the stress of managing four bathroom remodels at some state of bid and design to installation and completion began to melt off him in lieu of just staying alive. Today he is involved as much as his customers need to help find a replacement installer and help guide projects to completion.
Matt’s new legs
As you can imagine, the accident left both men in need of significant financial support. Prostheses for Matt alone are estimated at $100,000 (by September), not to mention uncovered medical bills and equipment, immediate home modifications that need to be completed, as well as day to day living expenses upon release.
Local friends and family – as well as the tile setting community – is rallying to assist Matt. Matt’s niece, Dana Felton Reinhard has set up a Go Fund Me page for donations at https://www.gofundme.com/mattsnewlegs! There is also a You Caring site set up by fellow Tile Geek Zack Bonfilio to support Matt at https://www.youcaring.com/matthewfelton-890026. And Noelle Hetzel, a member of an Everest group that Matt belongs to, in partnering with another Everest member to design and produce wooden pendants and keychains to raise funds for Matt. Go to http://bit.ly/2umh7Ad to order or contact Noelle at https://www.facebook.com/noelle.hetzel.
Another way to help Matt is to email [email protected] for info on how to directly donate by personal check (mail) or cash, which would be exempt from processing fees associated with Go Fund Me, so Matt would receive more of the donation.
Matt’s buddy Jason also needs significant financial support as well. The family had moved back from Florida, and is in between employment positions. Jason is not expected to return to work at this time. Assistance is needed immediately for his day to day living expenses and bills; most medical expenses will not be covered. His wife Ronda is trying to make ends meet, but medical costs are severely taxing the family resources. Please consider a donation through this page https://www.gofundme.com/jasonermirecovery or visit his page or [email protected] for more information on other ways to donate.
Fundraiser scheduled for September 17
There is a fundraiser for Matt and Jason on Sunday, September 17th at 6p.m. at the Grace Center at Broadway and Juneau in Milwaukee for local folks who wish to help.
Tile industry lends support
Said Tile Geek Zack Bonfilio, “My friend from the tile forums, Matthew Felton, lost both of his legs in an explosion recently. I’ve talked to him a bit and I just gotta say this guy’s spirit through this whole ordeal is truly inspiring, he’s making jokes and looking on the bright side constantly, and I just don’t know how he does it.”
Franken Gueuze in the Tile Geeks group said, “Here is the thing, Matt has always been a happy and positive guy; now, he is even more so, which you wouldn’t have thought was possible.”
And Steve Sprung, of RTC Products shared his personal experience of Matt: “Shortly after the accident, I reached out to him to ask if he wanted me to try and cultivate some local talent to help finish up anything he had on the books,” Sprung said. “I would have expected him to say he would like some help to finish these jobs, or at best, projects. His words to me were he would like to find some people to help complete his ‘visions.’ That told me all I needed to know about what kind of artist he is. He doesn’t see it as a job or project, but as a piece of art he is creating for that person. I think we can all agree that anyone with that mindset loves everything about what they do.”
Matt’s dream is to connect with A&D professionals anywhere in the world who want to install high-end beautiful, illuminated natural stone in their projects, crafted with Matt’s own special flair. “I’d rather earn my own money than get donations,” he said. “I’d travel anywhere.”
Both men are thankful to you and the Lord for assistance. Prayers and support are greatly appreciated!