Family, friends remember Matthew Bittner, 16-year-old struck and killed in Penfield


PENFIELD, N.Y. (WROC) — Family and friends are remembering 16-year-old Matthew Bittner of Penfield, after his tragic passing in late October.

Police say Bittner was crossing Chestnut Street on a dark and rainy night, when he was fatally struck by a car.

Friends of Bittner say he loved talking about music, and he loved to play the guitar.

“He was a quiet kid and a kind soul,” said Michael Meleca, friend and designated spokesperson for the Bittner family. “He loved music.”

Meleca knew Matthew for most of his life, as a family friend, and recalls the day he learned what happened.

“Sorrow, hope, hoping he can pull through this, obviously he didn’t,” Meleca said.

Bittner was walking home from a concert that night with his father.

“His dad saw it, the whole thing, so his dad is reliving this, can’t sleep,” Meleca said.

As someone who recently lost his godson, Meleca says he’s had his own personal experience with grief. He says the most important thing you can do when someone is grieving, is to be there and listen.

One thing that naturally grew out of the grieving process, was an idea. The family, along with Bittner’s guitar teachers, decided to start a scholarship in Matthew’s name, at FabGear in Fairport.

“He was really a joy to teach,” said Jeff Okolowicz, Bittner’s teacher at FabGear. Okolowicz says Bittner was just starting to dabble in songwriting a week leading up to his passing.

Music slowly opened up Matt, more and more, at a time where he started out very shy and reserved.

Through his passion for guitar, he came into his own.

“He was a heavy metal kid, the louder the faster, made him the happiest,” Okolowicz said.

Now Bittner’s family wants to share that gift for other families. Whether it be music, relationships though music, or just the beauty in finding your passion as a young person.

“This was something that was really important to him,” Okolowicz said. “He was a terrific kid who will really always be remembered down here.”

Family have declined to go on camera at this time, but say they are incredibly grateful that three families have already been awarded this scholarship so far. They say any way to honor Matt’s name and love of music by helping others and sharing that love, Is the best way.

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