Matthew Shepard: A Friend’s Perspective
Most of us know him through the hate crime that took his life more than 20 years ago. The mention of his name can stop people in their tracks as they pause to reflect.
Jason Marsden is so busy as the Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation that he does not get to do that often. Stop. Pause. Reflect.
But there he was on October 26 deep inside the enormous Washington National Cathedral as his friend, a symbol of gay rights, was interred almost 20 years to the day of the brutal October 7, 1998 attack.
With thousands jamming inside the Cathedral and even more watching remotely and standing outside, it hit Jason.
“I miss this kid,” he said. “I do my job as a labor of love for his family. But I do miss Matt.”
Jason recalls meeting the inquisitive and gregarious Matt at a birthday party when Matt recognized Jason as a local newspaper columnist. They began a discussion that led to a friendship and ultimately a front row seat to history.
Jason worked at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune when news of a potential hate crime against a University of Wyoming student flowed into the newsroom. Eventually, a fellow reporter working the story on campus learned the student’s name, interviewed some of his friends and discovered that Matthew Sheppard was a friend of Jason’s.
Back in Casper, editors called Jason in from the newsroom. They asked if he was friendly with a University of Wyoming student named Matthew Shepard. They calmly broke the news. Five days later his friend was gone.
Jason discovered a new calling as a fellow gay man who wanted to help Matthew’s parents Judy and Dennis on their mission to “erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance.”
Jason spent more than 30 minutes on a NAGLREP Success podcast and shared memories of his friend, perspectives about the Foundation, celebrated NAGLREP’s work and encouraged us all to enjoy everything Judy and Dennis have to offer.
“When you meet them, ask them what you can do to help,” he said. “It will make their day.”
Matthew’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, who have spent the last 20 years as LGBT activists and launched the iconic foundation, will deliver the keynote address at the NAGLREP Conference on October 1-3 in Palm Springs, CA. Click here to register.