Justin Mattes


In Memory Derick Kessel--1979-2007



January 7, 2007


Dear Mr. & Mrs. Kessel,

You might not recognize the return address on the outside of the envelope, but I knew Derick from Pascack Valley High School. While we weren't the closest of friends, the times we spent together are very special to me. It has been said people come in and out of our lives for a reason. I never quite could put my finger on how he came into my life unexpectedly, but I'm forever grateful he did. Derick was talking to Brian Ghem and some friends when I happened to just walk by and out of the corner of his mouth Derick mentioned something about my “wheels”, referring to my walker. At first I chalked it up as one of those remarks I learned to ignore over theyears, however when he came up to me and extended his hand, I knew we would become good friends. It didn't take long for us to start exchaning “hi-fives” in the hallways of PV. After years of kids teasing and bullying me in grade school, it was a welcomed surprise to know I had an ally that early on in my high school career.

Like anyone else starting high school I was nervous, however there were two additional obstacles I had to overcome. The first was the fact I lived and wet to grade school in Woodcliff Lake. Usually incoming freshman have the advantage of knowing at least half the class , or at least familiar with some of the faces. I only knew one othe guy that went to PV and he was an upper classman with his own friends, even though we were the same age. T he second obstacle was more obvious because I have Cerebral Palsy, my speech is very difficult to understand and sometimes that turns people away. My new beginning at Pascack Valley didn't look promising in the social department. Derick saw I was unhappy and said a quick hello, my face almost immediately lit up. He was the first of my peers to see past an awkward body walking down the hall. That led other folks to come up and introduce themselves. Soon I was surrounded by friends. What seemed like a small gesture on Derick's part set the tone for my entire stay at PV. People just assumed Derick was a tough guy, but I geuss for whatever reason he took it upon himself to look out for me. This was a duty he took very seriously all throughout high school.

Derick also helped me when it came to social events outside of high school as well. I had told him about this girl in one of my classes I wanted to take to the prom. He knew I really liked her, he also knew I needed a bit of a push to ask her out. We talked about it for what seemed to be forever and he gave me the confidence to bite the bullet and ask. She said yes, all of us had a great time and I realized yet again Derick had helped me accomplish something I wou ldn't have even dreamed was possible just a few short months earlier. He made me feel like I was o ne of the gang and didn't care what other people thought. Once again Derick was right by my side and I will never forget it.

Soon after I asked my mother how in the world Derick and I, two completely different people on the outside, could become such good friends? She said Derick felt he needed to keep an eye on me, in return I brought out a side of him people seldom witness first hand. It was nothing he and I ever talked about, but /it seemed we understood each other's strengths and weakness just by being around each other. He brought out the best in me, like he did with countless other people.

Like everyone else when I heard about Derick's death, I didn't want to belive it. How could someone with so much energy and so much to live for be taken away so suddenly? We all have different ways of mourning; my method is to get my thoughts down on paper. Derick was a big part of my life at Pascack Valley. He was always there when I truly needed him. Life is full of uncertainty; everynne has their peaks and valleys. However whenever Derick was around I always had a reason to feel good about who I am. Derick always knew how to lift my spirits. Thank you for raising such a caring and loving young man.

My deepest sympathies,
Justin Mattes


9:00 PM 7/13/97

Still the Same-- (B.Seger)

Derick always told me to call on him if I ever needed him for anything. Believe me, I called on him a lot during senior year. For instance whenever he and I went into the bathroom together he was the one who told everyone the first urinal was mine. He made the kids move no matter what they where doing. If they were going he make'em stop. If they were hacking butts, he would break it up. Derick was the only one that knew when I said I had to go that it was urgent and I would explode if I didn't get that first urinal. He always got the guys to move somehow. I think that was the big one.

The holiday ball was the best "dateless" dance I had because of him. Derick picked me up in his black Mustang and asked his date to sit in the back seat. He got me out on the dance floor with every girl he thought I liked, he must know my taste really well. He and I dancour feet off all night long. Til this day I still don't know why I let him take me. He knew I wanted to go even though I orginally said no/Maybe I just needed the extra push to get me going.

In case you didn't notice it is exacly one month since the good old senior prom. Derick was there for me too, he's right here with me too in sprit.< The night was filled with fun because of him and Sydel. Derick probablly knew what that night meant to me more than any other person in the joint. I never did tell him what exactly happened between Sydel and I. Hew knew, I bet he knew because he' knows how I operate. Derick was the one to convinced me to go for try to kiss her. I wanted to do itbut when it didn't happen, he understood.The thing I like most about Derick about him is that he knew when to put pressure on me and when to back off without me saying a word.

Down the shore was one of the greatest accomplishments in my high school career.He took one look in my eyes and knew I was serious. I knew Derick wouldn't let me down because he just felt he couldn't, just like the holiday ball. When I wanted to go on that log ride, he said it would be a little tricky but Derick managed to get the attendant to let me on. Derick gave him a look I'll never forget as long as I live. It was the kind of look only he could give. It was between the attendant, Derick and me. Derick was about to say, "This boy needs this log ride more than anything else in the world. Now let him ride!

Ever since the beginning Derick stood by me. I will never forget hime as long as I live. He will never be forgotten. This ones for you DK!



Note: Derick Kessel passed away January 4th,2007. Today,August 18th,2010 would have been his 32nd birthday.


June 17, 2007


Dear Derick,

Do you remember when we first met? I kind of do-, but now we're good friends and I owe it all to you. You have been by my side ever since day one and I just wanted to give you a little reminder of what we've been through together. For one our Junior Prom when we danced all night and had such a good time. How's about the Holiday Ball? You got me therre in one piece and we had a "ball". Just last Friday AND Saturday, when we went down the shore. These are just some of the events you and I have pulled off.

When I wanted to ask Sydel to the Junior Prom, I was so scared. I had asked Tom Miserendino about ten times how I should ask her, I was so scared. He said be myself and I did fine. When Sydel and I finally got to the prom, you were the only one on the dance floor who said it didn't matter how I danced so long as I had fun with Sydel. I couldn't have done it withou t you hanging around just in case I had a problem. It wasn't anything you did physically, it was the emotional stuff like talking to me.

Alan said on the day of the Holiday Ball that he couldn't believe I talked you into driving me to the dance. I had to explain to him that you and I have an understandiing between us. That night I didn't need Sydel or Cathy because you did all the things they wouuld do like make sure I had my straw in my drink A bum like me needs a friend like you because I can't handle these things myself. You don't even have to ask, you just do whatever.. It's the little things that you think i s no big deal, but to me it's the best thing I ever got.

There's just one more thing I forget to cover-- our "bet"! That's right D.K.. I never forgot what you said , "If you get to the Thanksgiving Game, we'll go out to lunch one day" Now I kept my part of the deal, I even got my mom out on the field. I have to talk to you about what happened the night of the prom with Sydel, it was great except....aw Derick you didn't actually think that I would tell you. Then we would never go out, pretty dirty trick on my part. I geuss you and I have to go out in order for you to hear that story!

The clock just struck eleven and I really must get ready for bed. I want you to know no matter what happens to me I'll never forget you! It is perople like you that make the world go 'round and don't you forget it! Don't worry about me I always come out on top some how. Remember you're my best man and I'm you r best boy. See ya 'round D.K.!

Your Friend,
JJ




- Justin Mattes © 2008-2017


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