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Fallen firefighter remembered for big laugh, heart for public service

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The city prepared Sunday to say goodbye to an Indianapolis firefighter who died in the line of duty.

Matthew “Matt” Bennett, 49, died last week because of a medical issue while responding to a call.

Friends remember Bennett as a gentle giant who gave decades of his life to public service. They said he had a gregarious laugh with an incredible wealth of knowledge.

The gray skies match the black bunting at Fire Station 1 where he used to work.

“It hurts and it’s going to hurt for a long time,” said IFD Capt. Eric Sutton. “We’re really going to miss Matt. He’s going to have a lasting impression on all our lives.”

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Bennett would have turned 50 next month. He’s been a part of public safety either professionally or as a volunteer for 38 years.

For the last five years, he’s been Captain Eric Sutton’s right hand man at Fire Station 1.

“Anything I needed, Matt either knew it, knew how to get it or knew someone to get the information,” Sutton said.

Matt died last week because of a medical issue as crews responded to a structure collapse on Nov. 13 near 56th Street and Shadeland Avenue.

Sutton was one of several to share words and various honors with Matt’s family and mother before his viewing Sunday afternoon.

He remembers the joy Matt brought and the humor, but also the seriousness with which he took his job in public service.

Bennett’s crew at Fire Station 1, B shift, the ones he shared the most laughs and talks with, worked their shift Sunday without one key member.

“That’s the life of a public servant, which Matt epitomized,” Sutton said. “We’re his brothers. We’re his people who he leaned on and we leaned on him.”

For eight hours Sunday, between noon and 8 p.m., friends, loved ones and fellow firefighters came by to pay their respects even during a pandemic. They were remembering a life lost, a life snuffed out in the line of duty, but doing what he loved, fulfilling the dream he had since he was a boy.

“Great guy. We’re going to miss him dearly. So today is tough, tomorrow is going to be even tougher,” Sutton said.

Monday he will be laid to rest, but the location seems appropriate: the Heroes of Public Safety section at Crown Hill Cemetery.

“The Indianapolis community is going to miss Matt Bennett. We love him,” Sutton said.

The funeral for family and loved ones will begin at 11 a.m. Monday and last for about an hour.

There will then be a procession to Fire Station 1 which is on 10th Street, just west of Eskenazi Hospital before coming back to Crown Hill for burial in another private service.

Here’s the route of that processional, as shared by Indianapolis Fire Department:

ROUTE:

Exit Crown Hill onto Clarendon to 38th St.

West on 38th St. to Cold Springs Rd

South on Cold Springs Rd to 30th St.

West on 30th St. to Tibbs Ave.

South on Tibbs Ave to 10th St.

**The procession will pause here. Firefighters will convene, outside at Station 1 at 1903 W 10th St. for the End of Watch, the final salute and the **Garrison Flag. 10th Street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Belmont to Miley with no W/B from White River.

East on 10th St. to Illinois St.

North on Illinois St. to 34th St.

West on 34th St. to Crown Hill entrance

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