Matt Phillips, son of Dr. Mark Phillips and Dr. Laura Phillips, died Sunday night at age 16. Phillips was a sophomore at Abilene’s Academy of Technology Engineering Math and Science. Matt’s sister, Allison Phillips, is a freshman marketing major and a member of the university’s volleyball team.
Matt was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder also known as “brittle bone disease.” But he was remembered for an infectious laugh and an uplifting spirit.
At a memorial service Tuesday at Hillcrest Church of Christ, Matt was described by many as an outgoing, funny and lively teenage boy. He was nicknamed the social director of his family.
“Every week after church he would ask people to eat lunch with us,” said Laura, assistant professor of management sciences. “He enjoyed people of all ages.”
She said her son enjoyed math, science, robotics and playing video games.
“He was very sweet,” Laura said. “But he was the biggest trash talker when he played games.”
Matt was born in Beech Grove, Ind., and lived in Stillwater, Okla., before moving to Abilene in 2004, when he was 8. Through his life, said family and friends, Matt did not let his brittle bone disease slow him down.
“We didn’t know until after he was born that he had it,” Laura said. “He just went with the flow, did what he could. He just kept going.”
He frequented university baseball, basketball and volleyball games, and he twice tagged along with his parents on Study Abroad trips to Oxford, England. While the disorder kept Matt in a wheelchair, it did not stop him from doing things he enjoyed and sharing laughs with others.
“He was always telling jokes that he thought were hilarious but weren’t actually very funny,” Laura said. “He loved having college students over for dinner and he loved going to ACU sporting events.”
Inspired by Matt, in 2008, social club Gamma Sigma Phi raised more than $16,000 during a 68-hour volleyball tournament to help fund research into curing brittle bone disease. Two years earlier club members raised $8,500 bicycling to Malibu, Calif., from Abilene.
Matt was the president of the robotics club at his school, was interested in rockets and was an avid reader. Abilene High School sophomore Jackson Pybus said he enjoyed playing video games with Phillips and said his good-natured optimism inspired others.
“A lot of people knew him,” Pybus said. “He impacted a lot of lives.”