Mokena teen’s parents ‘hope his legacy will go on’ after sudden death
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org March 6, 2013 4:08PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:46AM
Matt Lulinski was the type of kid who liked to help people. A freshman at Eastern Illinois University, he was studying to be a nurse.
Even as he was dying, “Laz” Lulinski was thinking of others.
The 18-year-old son of Tom and Marianne Lulinski, of Mokena, died suddenly early Sunday morning after suffering a tear in his aorta, his father said Wednesday.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday at Vandenberg Funeral Home, 19604 S. Wolf Road, Mokena, with funeral services beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home. A Mass will be said at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 19515 W. 115th Ave., Mokena. Interment will be at St. Mary Cemetery in Mokena.
Lulinski was the designated driver for his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity Saturday night and was driving when he suddenly felt chest pains and numbness in his legs, Tom Lulinski said. He called 911, then pulled into a parking lot, where his friend’s car would be safe.
He talked to his parents from the hospital.
“He told us he loved us,” his father said. “They gave him a sedative and he gently left us.”
With no cardiologist on duty late Saturday night, his son could not be stabilized in time to be airlifted to a St. Louis hospital. He died at 1:20 a.m. Sunday.
Coles County Coroner Ed Schniers ruled his death was from natural causes, but said the main artery from his heart “dissected.”
“It’s very tragic. You do not expect to see that happen in an 18-year-old,” Schniers said. “There is no warning. Once that starts, you do not have very many minutes.”
As his parents prepared for a trip to the Charleston campus for a 7 p.m. memorial Wednesday at their son’s fraternity, they recalled a son who was always smiling, extremely compassionate and loving, a “phenomenal kid” who was mature beyond his years, one whom others sought for advice.
His father said he was also an “avid weightlifter” and a “leader.”
He was a 2012 graduate of Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, and a member of EIU’s rugby team.
“He was so focused. He had direction. He had so many friends. But most importantly, he knew God. He really did,” Tom Lulinski said.
“We were very proud of him.” he said.
Matt bore a Christian tattoo — placed where only he saw it — the Christian fish symbol, with the words “my savior, my God.”
“He had an impact on many people’s lives,” Tom Lulinski said.
Since his death, Matt’s friends have told his parents many things he did to help others — “things we knew nothing about,” Marianne Lulinski said.
“Everything he did was for others. He always wanted to take care of his family and friends. He never said a bad word about anyone. He was a role model,” she said.
But Matt also was a “humble kid, who never wanted us to brag about him. But we have to now that he’s gone. Now we realize how blessed we were,” his mother said.
“Laz” was a nickname his buddies in eighth grade at St. Mary came up with for his son, and the name stuck through high school and college.
“All his friends and teachers knew him as ‘Laz,’ ” Tom Lulinski said.
The name “Matthew,” however, means “gift from God,” he said. “Now, my wife and I gave a gift back to God.
“It is so hard to have your son die. There has to be a reason for it,” he said. “I hope his legacy will go on. Maybe it will make people love and respect each other more, whether it’s cool or not.”
His mother said his legacy to her would be to emulate her son.
“He was the one who taught me lessons,” she said.
“To parents, I would say, ‘Love your child. Don’t say you do, but do it, and do it often.’ Matt knew he was loved,” Tom Lulinski said.
In addition to his parents, Matt is survived by a brother, Thomas; sister, Amanda; and five nieces and nephews.