Tributes pour in for Exeter PE teacher Matt Hammond
A FAMILY and city school are in mourning for a "loving, caring, inspirational and legendary" PE teacher who died aged 36.
The huge outpouring of grief for father-of-two Matt Hammond, team leader of PE and drama at Isca College of Media Arts, has been captured on one of the school walls, now a multi-coloured collage of messages from students and teachers.
The keen footballer from Broadclyst, who died on Saturday, June 30, leaves behind his wife Danielle, 36, daughters Isla, six, and Maia, four months, mother and father Denise and Richard and brothers Paul, 38, and Duncan, 32.
Matt went to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital suffering with a bad headache. Following tests he was admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth where a scan revealed he had suffered a ruptured blood vessel on the brain.
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Complications following surgery meant Matt had to be put in an induced coma. He died two weeks later.
Because Matt had registered to be an organ donor some of his organs will be donated to others.
On behalf of the family his brother Paul said: "He's had such an influence on so many people's lives, not only his close friends and family but his pupils and the football and local sports community, so his influence past and present will continue.
"He was a caring, loving, fun, positive person who loved a challenge and who just wanted to help people achieve the best they could in their lives and look out for them.
"The thing he was most proud of was his beautiful family, his wife and two daughters, and moving back to be near his family. He loved to have a laugh and a banter and to play jokes, no matter what the situation, he could turn it around.
"Sports were always his main passion, particularly football and cricket. When he was younger his dream was to play professional football but the next best thing was to teach sport."
He added: "He loved music, he had a massive music collection and loved going to live gigs and going out with his mates. He was a really sociable guy.
"The community spirit in Broadclyst has been amazing, we've received overwhelming love for Matt and support.
"It's been a roller coaster of emotions but we want to make sure Matt's influence lives on in people's lives."
Matt moved to Exwick with his family when he was 10 and attended Exwick Primary School and then St Peter's School, where he met his childhood sweetheart Danielle. He went to Exeter College before studying sports science at the University of Brighton. He spent two summers coaching football in Boston and Chicago in America in between working as the deputy manager at Wonford Sports Centre before completing a PGCE at St Luke's.
He had various teaching posts in the south of the country before joining Isca College four years ago as head of PE and drama. He played football for Broadclyst FC and cricket for Whimple.
A memorial assembly was held at the school on Monday for Matt which started and finished with two of his favourite songs, a blow of a whistle and a minute's applause.
Head teacher Mandi Street said: "For Matt to be an organ donor is typical of what a lovely role model to others he was, even this gesture in death, he was doing the right thing.
"I asked the staff to give me one word to describe Matt for the assembly and they said things like reliable, faithful, fantastic dad, sociable, funny, gentlemanly and caring.
"The thing about Matt was that he was one of the good people of the world. He always thought to tell people when they'd done something well.
"His influence on the young people was profound, he was such a good role model, through sport particularly.
"One of the many comments left on the memorial wall by a student said how Matt had helped them become a better sportsman but also a better person, which sums Matt up.
"How he played sport was a model for how Matt saw life, that it should be fair and players should support others, be respectful, be reliable and have fun.
"The thing that's overwhelming is the number of students and former students, parents and colleagues from other schools who have been in touch since the news. The number of people's lives he's touched has been overwhelming."
She added: "When you have someone on your staff who was a friend to everyone and so heavily respected, but was also a very significant role model for young people, including to some of the more challenging young people whom he helped to find a way through life, then there's a big gap.
"And that's what we're trying to come to terms with.
"The children are deeply upset and shocked and our priority is to look after each other and cope with our grief together."
Simon Weir, deputy head teacher, added: "The kids have been wonderful. The way the students and staff have come together to support each other is an extraordinary demonstration of the strength of a school community, one that has so much love for Matt."
The school and family are hoping to arrange a memorial event for Matt to keep his legacy alive.
Details of the funeral are due to be confirmed. Anyone who knew Matt and would like to attend should contact M Sillifant & Sons Funeral Directors on 01392 272688.