The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Honoring the memory of Charleston council member Matthew Hutti  

Matthew+Hutti%2C+Posing+in+front+of+lake+Charleston+in+Charleston+IL.
Submitted Photo
Matthew Hutti, Posing in front of lake Charleston in Charleston IL.

Whether he was known as a council member, an Eastern Illinois University alum, a Charleston native or the world’s biggest Cubs fan, Matthew Hutti will be remembered for his love for others and a smile that would never fade.  

Matthew Hutti, age 44, of Charleston, Illinois, passed away peacefully at 6:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, surrounded by family,” according to the Adams Funeral Chapel.

Born June 26, 1979, Hutti grew up in Charleston and had a childhood like any other.  

Around age 5, Hutti’s family noticed his disability symptoms. He was diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease muscular dystrophy.  

Although this disability caused problems with his mobility, that did not stop him from having a normal childhood.  

“[While in school] he participated in you know, he was in the chess club, he did the plays at the high school, he was a manager for a basketball team, he went to proms. It was always just a little bit different you know we had to kind of work at it,” said his mother, Deborah Hutti.  

Matthew Hutti could walk his entire high school career. The day of his graduation ceremony was the last time he could.  

After graduating from Charleston High School in 1988, he began using a wheelchair.  

Furthering his love for education, Hutti left Charleston to receive his bachelor’s degree at Fontbonne University in St. Louis in 2002.  

While at Fontbonne, Hutti ran to be Mr. Fontbonne– comparable to homecoming king– and got second place, said his brother Timothy Hutti.  

He later returned to his hometown and earned his Master of Science in Sports Management from Eastern Illinois University in 2007.  

Matthew Hutti graduating from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston Illinois in 2007

“He then moved to Orlando, Florida, and worked at Disney World,” said Timothy Hutti. “He had a multitude of jobs with Disney World. Disney was very good to him.”  

He worked at Disney for around two years, later ending up working for the largest Marriot hotel in the world in Orlando, said Timothy Hutti.

Hutti’s disability became too difficult for him to handle on his own, so he moved back to Charleston.  

Matthew Hutti’s illness may have played a significant role in his life physically, but he lived as if it did not.  

His mother said around the age of 12 he realized there was no cure, so he no longer allowed his disability to affect him.  

“If he’d go to a doctor and the doctor would say something negative, Matthew simply would pretend like he didn’t hear it,” said Deborah Hutti.   

While substitute teaching for the Charleston school district, Hutti had time to do what he loved most: spending time with his family. 

Matthew Hutti, Posing with his mother Deborah Hutti. in Charleston IL. (submitted photo)

According to his mother, he had 31 first cousins and made sure to keep up with everyone as best as he could. His favorite thing to do with his cousins was travel.  

“He went skiing. That was kind of a difficult one, but it was fun,” Deborah Hutti said. “He got to experience going in the ocean with his cousins.”

“He got to go to New York and visit family. Traveling was a very important part of his life, but he did it with family because he needed more help than just my husband and I,” she said.  

According to lifelong friend and Mayor Brandon Combs, Hutti lived an exciting life. 

“Matt was an adventurer in terms of chasing all kinds of exciting activities: snorkeling, snow skiing, dog sledding, hot air ballooning, parasailing, deer hunting, kayaking, remote muskie fishing, motorcycling and snowmobile riding,” Combs said. “He wanted to ensure that those behind him in the same circumstance understood that they could do anything.”  

Here in Charleston, one of his favorite things to do was go out to eat at Casa Del Mar with his uncle Mark, his aunt and his cousin.  

With a neuromuscular condition as severe as Hutti’s, his family was the backbone of his foundation.  

Combs knew how important his family was to him and all the things they did for him.  

“His family banded around him and helped him, you know. If he wanted to achieve something, they were gonna do whatever they could to make sure that Matt was able to get what he needed to, to accomplish what he wanted to do,” Combs said.  

“Matt just never complained, and his family would see that, and they would help, you know,” he said. “They would help him right along because they knew that he had ambition and he had drive. He had things that he wanted to accomplish and show people that even though you have a disability, you can still accomplish whatever it is you want to do.

Regardless of the relationship between Hutti and his disability, he never complained and always had a humorous outlook on life.  

Junior nursing major Mia Di Naso worked as a student aide for Hutti for almost four years and remembered him as being one of the most positive people she knew.  

Matthew Hutti posing with his student aide Mia Di Naso at Lake Charleston IL

“He was wonderful. Living with a disability, I couldn’t imagine, but I really never knew anyone that was more positive than him,” Di Naso said. “He really had a great outlook on, I mean, every situation.”

As his condition worsened, Hutti began losing mobility in his hands, so he had to use a new wheelchair powered by head movements.  

Di Naso recalled while practicing along the track inside Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital, Hutti ran into a wall and made a few dents and a hole.  

“It was not great at first, but afterward we just would laugh about it and it kind of became a running joke at, you know, the fact that he was gonna run into something,” she said.  

And that he did.  

His mother said that there are plenty of dents and bumps along the track inside the field house from him practicing.  

Hutti loved being outside and riding around. Because of that, he always met someone he knew.  

“He knew everybody, so we’d walk into a store see somebody he knew, and we hold the conversation with him every single time,” said sophomore kinesiology major Jackson Becker. “Sometimes it was hard to get him, you know, to quiet down, sometimes, or do whatever we had to do because he was always talking to somebody. He always had a smile on his face whenever we’d go somewhere.”  

While out of town at a WWE match, Timothy Hutti was scared when he thought he lost his brother.

Matthew Hutti told him he was going to the bathroom, but after about an hour Timothy Hutti began to worry.

After calling security, they told him that Hutti met the owner of the Los Angeles Rams Stan Kroenke and happened to be in Kroenke’s room eating dinner.  

As much as Hutti enjoyed meeting new people, he enjoyed meeting people like himself all the same, which is where his love for Camp New Hope came from.  

According to the Camp New Hope website, “Camp New Hope is a year-round recreational experience for special needs individuals ages 8 and above.”

He spent a lot of time at Camp New Hope growing up. As he got older, he began mentoring the young people there in hopes of showing them that they have the power to do whatever it is they want to do.  

Hutti was a huge sports fan. He spent time playing fantasy football, sitting at home enjoying the game or coming out to Eastern for sporting events.  

He is most known for his love of the Chicago Cubs. 

“Matt loved the Cubs, and his family was all Cardinals fans. Most of his friends were Cardinals fans, and if the Cardinals were playing the Cubs, I can guarantee you I would receive a bunch of messages or calls ’cause I’m a Cardinals fan myself, and he loved to poke fun at us,” said Combs. “He loved whether the Cardinal, whether the Cubs would beat the Cardinals, or the Cardinals would beat the Cubs. He was still harassing us Cardinal fans constantly.”  

Hutti had the utmost respect for the Charleston Fire Department and police station.  

He was always giving them praise or sending cards to show off his support.  

The impact of his appreciation for the police and fire department was so strong that the police and fire department stood honor guard over his casket at visitation as well as escorting his procession to the cemetery. 

Living in Charleston allowed Matthew to build a community within the community.   

“I think if Matthew had lived in a big city, I don’t think he could have done everything that he has done,” said Deborah Hutti. “We, had to learn not to worry about Matthew when he could drive his wheelchair by himself. But we knew that in a small town, somebody would help him. We knew it because people knew him, and he knew them, and I think that makes a big difference if a person lives like Matthew, because you know, he had so many needs.”

In hopes of giving back to the small city that gave so much to him, Hutti ran for city council.  

After several attempts, on May 7, 2013 Hutti was sworn into office as a council member alongside Combs  

Charleston City Clerk Deborah Muller swears in new Charleston City Councilmembers Matthew Hutti (on left) and Brandon Combs (on right) Tuesday night (May 7, 2013) at the start of the council meeting at City Hall in Charleston. (Photo by Ken Trevarthan/Journal Gazette & Times-Courier). (Ken Trevarthan)

Hutti was a member of the Charleston City Council for three consecutive terms.  

While in office, he worked on several projects to advance the city of Charleston for all its citizens, especially people like himself.  

He loved being outside and riding around for hours, so he made sure to improve the walkways of his favorite cruising spots.  

He did this by constructing 8-10 foot wide paths throughout Lincoln Ave., Lake Charleston, the Linder Sports Complex and Sister City Park.  

He also made sure the places listed above were ADA-accessible.  

An example of this can be the ADA-accessible fishing dock or the ADA-accessible kayaking port at Lake Charleston.  

The last project Hutti was looking forward to seeing finished was the reconstruction of Douglas Drive, which will be taking place this spring.  

Hutti used his platform to advocate for people with disabilities and bring a voice to the community.  

He didn’t just think about himself though. If anyone came to him with an issue, no matter how big or small, he made sure somebody was going to hear about it.

Becker, who worked as an aide for Hutti over the last three months, recalled a moment that showed him how much Hutti cared for others

“I had a late advising appointment for a class and it was anatomy one and the class was full. But he [Hutti] went out of his way to go contact the mayor, the teacher of the class, Brandon Combs,” Becker said. “He knew him ’cause of the city council and stuff, and he went out of the way and asked him about it at a council meeting, introduced me to him. Then Combs tried to do everything he could, and then I eventually ended up getting in the class.”  

The admiration Hutti had for the city council could be felt the moment he came in the room, and if not, he would relay the message.  

“He believed that the city administration and the city council right now was one of the best, if not the best administration that the city of Charleston has ever had, and told them that,” said his mother.

Hutti was loved by so many people that it took hours to get into his service.  

According to Combs, while he and his wife had to wait for around two to two and a half hours, he saw people who were waiting in line for at least three hours.  

Matthew Hutti is remembered as a hero. No matter how hard life got or what was thrown at him he wore his smile like a cape and helped all he encountered.  

Di Naso said, “Honestly, you know, looking at it from an outside perspective, people thought I took care of him, but in a lot of ways I think that he took care of me.” 

 

 Alexis Moore-Jones can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Alexis Moore-Jones
Alexis Moore-Jones, Feature Reporter
Alexis Moore-Jones is a senior broadcast journalism major. This is her first year at The News.

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