Recent graduate dies of cancer


Photo Credit: Glenconian Yearbook, 2015

Twenty year-old Jack Mattsson passed away Oct. 15 due to osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

by Christine Nappi, Copy Editor

Glen Rock resident and high school alumnus Jack Mattsson (‘15) passed away on Oct. 15 after his battle with cancer.

Jack was 20 years old when he passed due to osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that tends to occur in children and adolescents. The summer following his freshman year at James Madison University in 2016, Jack was diagnosed with the illness. A service for him was held at St. Catharine’s Parish this past Saturday where many gathered to support Jack and his family.

“We are very grateful to the whole Glen Rock community,” father Rudy Mattsson said on behalf of his family. “Their support of Jack was so inspirational to Jack in his everyday fight against cancer.”

Family and friends of Jack describe him as a being strong through this battle, fighting until the end. According to a close friend Sue Stevens*, Jack never let his sickness diminish him and he never lost sight of whom he was. 

“Through this entire battle he handled it with the most grace and strength that I think I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” Stevens said.

According to Stevens, Jack had a great sense of humor and knew how to make all his friends laugh. He was a loving friend who was fun to be around and radiated happiness to others. Close friend Greg Warner (‘15) said that Jack would always keep his friends on his toes by “busting our chops.”

Jack enjoyed talking about sports with his friends, cheering on the Mets at Citi Field, and playing the slots and roulette at the casino. According to Warner, another hobby that Jack picked up over the past few years was golf. Jack, Warner, and some other friends began to play a great deal during the past year while Jack was sick.

“Because he couldn’t do a whole lot of physical activity, I think this was the main thing that made him feel normal and let him put his troubles aside for a few hours,” Warner said.

Warner recalled a time in August when they played on the golf course, enjoying the comfort and relaxation of the greens. It was one of the last times Warner saw Jack before he went into hospice.

“It was a beautiful day and we had a great time,” Warner said. “Looking back, I know that if he knew that was basically the last time we’d see each other he wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”   

In addition to his other interests, Jack was a member of the soccer team during his time in high school.

Amongst the current high school soccer community, both the boys and girls teams have been supportive of the program’s previous member. In the past few boys soccer games, the team members have been wearing black armbands to honor Jack. At the girls county game against Ramsey, the players wore yellow armbands to spread awareness about osteosarcoma, and had a moment of silence for Jack before the game started.

Another way others have commemorated Jack is through getting a tattoo. As described by his close friend, a number of Jack’s friends have gotten tattoos with his initials on it. According to Stevens, the tattoos are a reminder about how strong Jack was as a person.

“The tattoos aren’t in memory of him,” Stevens said. “[They’re] to show how important it is to live your life like he did, and he lived it the way he wanted and he fought every day.”

According to his father Rudy, Jack’s friends were a vital source of help. Even though many were away at college, they managed to keep in touch with him while he was going through this difficult time.

“Jack’s friends were always there for him,” Rudy said. “It helped keep up the fight which included hundreds of visits to doctors over the last 17 months.”

Rudy organized a fundraiser page “Help Jack Mattsson’s War-On-Cancer Fund” after Jack was diagnosed. The site raised over $110,000 and people are continuing to donate to the fund. Jack and his family were very appreciative of the support they received from people all over the community.  

One of Jack’s favorite movies was The Shawshank Redemption. Rudy said Jack would’ve liked to pass along the quote from the movie, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

“He left this Earth with no regrets about trying everything he could do to carry on,” Rudy said. “He never gave up.”


*a name has been changed to Sue Stevens as the source requested anonymity