Matthew Lester, 17

June 8, 1999 - Jan. 16, 2017
Matthew Lester, June 8, 1999 - Jan. 16, 2017

Despite his young age, Matthew Lester, who was a senior at East Hampton High School, felt a great civic duty, not only to his community, but to the whole world, his parents said. From writing a letter to President Barack Obama about climate change in 2009, to a mission trip to Cuba, or his proposed Eagle Scout project of planting a pollinator garden, Matthew looked for ways to make a difference.

A member of Cub Scout Pack 426, he bridged up to Boy Scout Troop 298 in 2010. He participated in many community service and Eagle Scout projects with his fellow scouts, and was in the planning stages of his own Eagle project, a perennial garden that would provide food for bees throughout the year at the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum. The plight of the honeybee led to a hobby in beekeeping, which became a family affair. His mother said he was so concerned about the declining numbers of bees that he wanted to raise awareness.

As a freshman in high school, he wrote a letter to this paper challenging people in East Hampton not to put herbicides or pesticides on their lawns because, as he explained, poisoning dandelions means poisoning bees. “Let’s see who can have the most dandelions in their lawn this season. Perhaps dandelions could turn into a new fashion in lawns,” he wrote.

That concern sparked his Eagle Scout project. His troop has promised to continue his project and dedicate it to his memory, his parents said.

Matthew, who lived on Copeces Lane in Springs, died of an apparent suicide on Jan. 16. He was 17.

Also very active in the East Hampton Presbyterian Church, he participated in the children’s choir, the handbell choir, and the youth group. At the age of 12, he was ordained a deacon, a position that until then had been held only by adults, his mother said. During the summer of 2015, he went with a group of youths and adults from the church on a weeklong mission trip to Cuba to teach Bible school in Güines. His mother said he had hoped to go back one day.

Matthew Lawrence Lester was born on June 8, 1999, at St. Charles Hospital in Smithtown to Jeffrey T. Lester and the former Dana Miller. He attended Picket Fences Daycare, and then the Springs School from prekindergarten through eighth grade. He started East Hampton High School in 2012.

In 11th grade, he decided to attend a new Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services program that focused heavily on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It was there that he became involved with a program called Skills U.S.A., and he helped organize a Quiz Bowl team. With his leadership, the team won gold medals at the Skills U.S.A. Region VI Regional Championships, and went on to compete at the state competition. He had returned to East Hampton High School for his senior year.

Matthew loved to bowl and had been bitten by the acting bug, his family said. Since the 10th grade, he participated in school productions, including “Grease” in 2015, in which he played Vince Fontaine. He met his girlfriend and best friend, Iris Arellano, while working on the musical.

He began bowling at the age of 5 and was devastated when East Hampton Bowl closed in 2013, but it did not keep him from the sport, his parents said. He bowled on a traveling youth league, Bowlympics, and made the trek to Shirley every Saturday with his friend, Sammi Schurr. “He found many special friends there that were very important to him,” his mother said.

In addition to his parents, Matthew is survived by his sisters, Michelle Lester of Smithtown and Meredith Lester of Springs, a grandmother, Linda Miller of Springs, and a grandfather, Harry Lester. He also leaves a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, and a niece and nephew.

A service was held at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church on Saturday, with the Rev. Scott McCachren and the Rev. Nancy Howarth officiating. His ashes will be buried at Round Swamp Farm Cemetery at a later date.