For those closest to him, Matthew Grape could remedy a bad day with a contagious smile and an effortless one-liner.
Described as “loyal almost to a fault,” Grape’s family and friends remember him as an unwavering and refreshing source of compassion and support.
“He had this cute, innocent, beautiful smile and whenever you needed something he would be there and sit down next to you,” his brother Peter Grape, Trinity ’08, said. “Whenever I was going through a hard time, he would always be there with a smile that would light up a room.”
Grape, a 21-year-old senior and political science major, died in a single-car accident the morning of Sept. 15. His sudden death has left a void on campus that friends said can never be replaced.
“Matt was one of a kind,” said sophomore James Sinclair, a member of Alpha Delta Phi—Grape’s fraternity. “There is no one else who can compare to him. He was distinctly different and completely his own person.”
With the ability to say exactly the right thing at the right time, Grape never failed to be there for his family and friends, Peter said.
“We always would be joking around and he was quick to come up with something funny to say,” he said. “He knew when to sit there and not talk, but he also knew when we needed to hear a good joke.”
Devoted family member and friend
Peter said his brother loved being with the entire family, often marking family gatherings with his vibrant and infectious presence.
A particular example is the memory of Peter’s graduation from Duke in 2008, where Grape was “rolling around the dance floor with a huge smile.”
“I remember my mom looking at me and saying, ‘You can’t dance like that, can you? Where did Matt learn that?’” Peter said. “He was always happy, and I think it made my mom so happy that night to dance with Matt and see him cut a rug.”
And in one of Grape’s first bonds of loyalty, his older sister Katie shared stories about Grape’s special relationship with the family’s yellow Labrador, Brandy.
“We got her when Matt was 7-years-old,” she said. “Anytime he would come home, the first thing he would do was go play with her before doing anything else. He was so devoted to her, and he loved her so much.”
This loyalty translated to his membership in Alpha Delta Phi, as Grape’s fraternity brothers said he never missed a meeting or an event.
Grape was constantly reaching out to younger and older brothers to unify the chapter, said Alpha Delta Phi President Will Geary, a senior. Grape, who also served as special event coordinator for the fraternity, embodied the characteristics of loyalty, brotherhood and selflessness that all the Alpha Delta Phi brothers strive for everyday, Geary said.
“He really loved the fraternity,” said senior Kevin Rutter, Grape’s roommate sophomore year and fraternity brother. “If you were free on a Monday night, he would send an email, and it didn’t matter who you were—sophomore, junior, senior—he loved hanging out with you, and it always was a special thing for him.”
And similar to his commitment as brother, son, friend and fraternity member, Grape’s other great passion was his favorite athletic programs, most notably his loyalty to New England sports teams, particularly the Boston Red Sox, older sister Katie Grape said.
Katie recalled waking up with her brother at 4 a.m. one morning to wait outside Fenway Park in Boston, Mass., to watch the Red Sox play the New York Yankees in 2004. Despite the pouring rain that forced Grape and Katie to wear trash bags over their heads, Grape refused to leave before the game’s final out.
“It ended up being the turning point of the Red Sox season as they beat the Yankees and went on to win the World Series,” Katie said. “He was so proud and so excited and it was one of my happiest memories of him.”
Fraternity brother Mike Sullivan, a senior, added that Grape carried his passion for athletics to Duke, especially with the lacrosse team.
“He was really close with all the lacrosse guys and went to almost every home game in three years,” Sullivan said. “It was a huge part of his life.”
From shaving his head into a mohawk sophomore year, to restricting his diet to Pizza Hut during a Spring break trip in Costa Rica to standing out in a simple fraternity T-shirt at a Halloween costume party, Grape’s closest friends shared countless stories of his unique yet lovable spirit.
“He took pleasure in giving my parents just a little bit of trouble,” Peter said. “My mom would always call him a turkey because he would give her trouble, but then he would just flash her a smile, and everything would be OK.”
Sinclair said Grape looked for companionship in everyone around him and never missed an opportunity to be with his friends.
“Some guys in the fraternity you don’t see that much,” fraternity brother Tim Shaugnessy, Trinity ’11, said. “But Matt, you saw him all the time. It didn’t matter if it was a big gathering or a small one—he was always present. He was a constant source of support and he truly cared about his friends.”
Just as Grape was devoted to his fraternity brothers, they remain similarly devoted to him. This weekend, more than 50 current and former members of Alpha Delta Phi traveled to Grape’s hometown of Wellesley, Mass. to honor Grape and support Grape’s family.
Fraternity brother Daniel Acquaah, a senior, wrote in an email Sunday that the outpouring of support for Grape at the viewing held Sunday was overwhelming.
“The brothers in Alpha Delta Phi and the rest of the Duke community showed up right at 4 p.m. with a line already around the block,” he said. “The sheer number of people showing up to the event—hundreds—speaks volumes of how important Matt was to so many people. It was a very emotional time but strengthened our bond with each other in an immeasurable way.”
A funeral service will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Wellesley. Grape will be buried with some of his most cherished items including a Boston Red Sox cap, a mug commemorating the season his football team at the Noble and Greenough School went undefeated along with his championship ring and an unfinished Duke graduation pillow his mother had been knitting for him, Acquaah said.
Shaughnessy—who was unable to attend the services this weekend—said the love for Grape demonstrated by the Duke community is a testament to Grape’s own character.
“I know that Matt would have been happy to see all the loyalty returned to him in the end,” he said.
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