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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alert: Fire Fighter LODD Grave Theft-Can You Help? via The Secret List

Maybe you can help. Maybe you'll see it on the Internet for sale or something like that-so we figured we would "Secret List" this because the family of a young firefighter killed 12 years ago in the line of duty is asking for help in finding clues to the defacement of his grave, including the prying off of a brass plaque on his headstone.

California FF Matt Black was just weeks short of his 21st birthday - and five days shy of his first year as a Volunteer Firefighter with Lakeport (California) Fire, when he was tragically electrocuted and killed in the Line of Duty by a downed 12,000 power line while fighting a fire on June 23, 1999.

FF Black's mother, Jo Ann Gettman and her husband, Gerry, have regularly visited her son's grave at Hartley Cemetery outside of Lakeport, often going there on special occasions and his birthday. During a recent visit they discovered that his headstone had been defaced and several items removed that had been left at the grave by family and friends. When he died, FF Black's family had an 8-inch by 10-inch brass plaque engraved with "The Fireman's Prayer" added to his flat granite headstone, along with a picture of him under glass. They also placed there a brass spittoon that he had kept in his room since childhood, along with a small hula girl and other memorabilia, Mrs Gettman said, and they went out on July 4 for one of their regular visits, and everything was fine.

She said they noticed the brass plaque needed cleaning, and decided to come back and do that on July 18, what would have been Black's 33rd birthday. But when they got out to the site, the plaque was gone, she said. "We were just shocked," she said, explaining, "Somebody had to work to get it off."

She and her husband spoke to the cemetery's groundskeeper, who hadn't noticed any issues with the grave or seen any suspicious activity. After the couple got home and began thinking about the site more, they realized the spittoon, the cowboy boots, hula girl, wooden rose, baseball cap and Cal Fire card all were gone as well. Jo Ann Gettman said they met at the cemetery with sheriff's Deputy Carla Hockett to make a report on the thefts. Gettman said vandalizing a grave hurts all the people who love the person buried there, adding it's been devastating to her, her husband, her other son - a Santa Rose firefighter - and Black's friends.

If anyone has information on this dishonor and perhaps see's anything related that's being sold, E-bayed, Craigslisted etc please contact Jo Ann Gettman at 707-263-3956 or .

 About Matthew
Matt was born at home on Ruby Drive in Lakeport on July 18, 1978. He was a graduate of Clear Lake High School, Class of 1997. During his years at Clear Lake High School, he was a member both of the Sheriff's Department Explorers and the Lakeport Fire Department Explorers. For a while during his senior year, he was torn between becoming a policeman or a fireman. When he was 8 he wanted to follow in his big brother's footsteps, Mike Jones, and become a fireman. Mike is a Captain with the Santa Rosa Fire Department. He idolized his big brother and wanted to be just like him. He became a volunteer fireman at Lakeport in 1998. After high school he took classes at Mendicino College and had decided to attend the Fire Academy in the fall of 1999. His dream to become a real career fireman (he was a volunteer) was never fulfilled, as his life was cut short on the 23rd of June in 1999 – just a few days before his 21st birthday. He died doing what he wanted to do.
He loved sports and played a lot of them. He played soccer, football, basketball, wrestling and ice hockey. He played hockey for the Belmont Rangers and played in the National Championships in 1994. He was passionate about car racing and water sports – he loved his jet ski and boating. He enjoyed western music and dancing. He had a Russian Blue cat named Eishia that he got for his 10th birthday, and a Queensland Blue Heeler dog that he bought during his last year in high school. We kept both of his pets until they passed away in 2005.
Matt was a wonderful son; we were very proud of him. Matt was a very loveable, funny, loving person. He could make everyone laugh. He was even voted class clown in his senior year. He was warm and sensitive, and very easy to get to know. He always had a lot of friends. He is missed very much by his family and friends.

Matt died in the line of duty with the Lakeport Volunteer Fire Department on June 23, 1999 – just  a few days short of his 21st birthday, which he planned to spend in Hawaii with some of his best friends since early childhood.
My husband and I have devoted ourselves to working for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Matthew's honor. It is a non-profit national organization that has helped us and so many others cope with a line-of-duty death.
There is a Scholarship Fund at the Lakeport Fire Department in Matt's memory. It is given each year to a student from Clear Lake High School who wants to have a career in Public Service.

More about Matt HERE:
Story source: Secret List -

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