Rachelle Jones was a kid living on the streets in Vancouver when she met the person she credits with saving her life.
She was just 14 years old at the time, homeless and suffering with a crystal meth addiction.
“There wasn’t a lot of light in my world,” she says.
Then at a party she met Matt Reeder, who decided to adopt Jones. He and a group of friends took her back to a warehouse Reeder and his brother Ben hosted shows out of and gave her a place to stay. Reeder made her smoothies, started feeding her healthy foods and introduced Jones to music.
“I must have scratched about a dozen of his brother’s records learning how to play the turn tables,” she says. “They just gave me love and nourishment and kindness and friendship and helped me blossom as a person.”
Jones got clean four years after meeting Reeder. She’s 35 now, healthy and living in Nelson because of what Reeder did for her.
“Matt was always there in my life. He was one of those friends who throughout 21 years never went away.”
Jones was one of several people who spoke at a memorial for Reeder on Wednesday at Cottonwood Falls. Reeder, who was assaulted and died in downtown Nelson on June 5, was remembered for his humour, talent and kindness. That kindness extended on in death — it was announced at the memorial that four of Reeder’s organs had already been donated to people in need.
Reeder, 45, grew up in Vancouver’s Kitsilano area. Ben Reeder describes him as a talented pianist with a perfect ear who would play for the family every Sunday. Ben later picked up drumming and played jazz with his older brother.
As they grew up, the pair lived together for several years. “I was his protector in a sense. While he was protecting everyone else I was protecting him.”
Reeder was also a trained animator. He began creating experimental visuals and collaborated on movies with Ben. In 1999 the pair started BentMatter, a company that has since produced visuals for events such as the 2010 Winter Olympics and, closer to home, Shambhala Music Festival.
But Reeder also struggled with substance abuse. Ben said his brother self medicated to deal with ADHD, and trips to rehab never seemed to help.
“He’s battled with addiction, without a doubt, but somehow was always able to make it through,” says Ben.
Bren Zen played music with Reeder for the last two decades. Seven years ago he brought Reeder to Nelson to help him kick a crack addiction.
It took more than seven months, but Zen was able to slowly ween Reeder off the drug. Alcoholism, however, stayed with Reeder for the remainder of his life.
“I believe he would have only lived like three-to-six months more in Vancouver,” says Zen. “He had so many close brushes to death (with addiction). I helped extend his life by like seven years by bringing him here.”
Reeder was a fixture in Nelson’s street community. Adam Hutchison, who calls Reeder his best friend, remembered the time he found two pristine suits in a dumpster. The pair decided to put on the clothes as a gimmick while panhandling downtown.
It didn’t exactly work, but a picture of the two men dressed up that was passed around at Wednesday’s memorial lightened the mood.
“I don’t even remember if we did good making money or not,” says Hutchison. “I just know we had a really good time just being dressed up.”
A large group of people attended the memorial, which didn’t surprise Jones. She said he had the same affect on others as he did on her all those years ago.
“He was a one-of-a-kind creature. … I feel like today Matt’s gone but the place where I live and the people who I love today, a lot of them were introduced to me by Matt.”