There’s no way love, affection and appreciation can be measured in distance. But if it could, the memory of Matt Romero stretched more than 64,500 feet the afternoon of Aug. 15.
Less than a month after dying in his sleep, Romero was honored by those who knew and loved him with a more-than-12-mile procession that stretched from CVS Pharmacy in Angels Camp, to downtown Angels Camp, up to Murphys and ending at Sam Berri Towing, where Romero worked as a driver for five years.
“Today was a celebration for Matt Romero,” said Tambrina Carlson, who is the office manager at Sam Berri Towing. “We wanted to show him a lot of recognition for his time here in Calaveras County, his charity and his dedication to the company. We wanted to let him know that he was truly loved, and we were proud to do so. It was a great turnout.”
Shortly after Romero’s death, flatbed driver Alan Abreo started thinking about what could be done to honor his friend, lifelong Calaveras County resident and Bret Harte High School graduate. The idea of a procession came up and after only a few emails, the plan was put into motion.
For Carlson, a procession was the least she could do for someone who gave so much of his time and effort into the community he loved.
“Matt was the warmest, most giving person that you could meet,” she said. “He would help anybody at any time. He’d give the coat off his back and was just the most generous person. Matt was a negative Nelly with a positive Polly influence. He liked to complain, but he was really quick to come up with a conclusion. He was a mother hen, but not a mother hen because he was definitely a man, but he took care of everybody here.”
The news of Romero’s death came as an unwanted surprise to not only Carlson, but to those who knew him. Romero was only 51 when he died.
“It was the worst shock in the world,” Carlson said. “We all went into a robotic mode. It was very unexpected and very much unwanted. He will be missed.”
Romero’s life interests were proudly on display during the procession. He was a volunteer firefighter and leading the way were bright red engines from the Altaville Melones Fire Department, along with engines from other Calaveras County firehouses. A long line of yellow tow trucks followed, with Romero’s No. 33 truck being hauled by a flatbed. The procession also included the Calaveras County Highway Patrol, Angels Camp Police Department, motorcycle clubs, along with friends and family.
And many of the vehicles had some sort of American flag waving in the breeze to honor Romero’s love for his country.
During and concluding the procession, many tears and hugs were flowing by those watching and driving. There was some laughter and memories of Romero being shared. For Carlson, the event couldn’t have been any more heartfelt and touching.
“It was very warming to see everyone in the community come together and show him some recognition,” Carlson said. “It was very emotional and a lot of tears came today.”