Remembering Matt Newbery


Photo by: Mattie Vacca

Matt Newberry was a 1985 graduate. He passed away Nov. 22 due to Covid-19. A scholarship has been established in his honor.

Story by Ian Sullivan, Reporter

On Nov. 22, 2020, one of Pittsburg’s athletic community’s greatest allies, Matt Newbery, passed away from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 53. Newbery was a PHS alumnus and a part of the class of 1985. He spent his career with the Morning Sun, Pittsburg State University and the MIAA conference. He was also heavily involved with the American Legion baseball team.

Doug VanBecelaere, who worked with Newbery with the American Legion baseball team, acknowledged Newbery’s support of local athletics.

“He really did a lot for sports in this area, to try and get our little corner of the world on the map. He did a lot of behind the scenes that he never got recognition for,” Vanbecelaere said. “He just felt it was important to this community, so he was a very integral part of the sporting scene in this area.” 

Ron Light, who is the Director of Operations for the American Legion Baseball team, also worked closely with Newbery.

“He announced for Tuesday night doubleheaders that we held every week here in Pittsburg. He announced all the tournaments that we put on and queued the music in between innings, which he was really good at. He was also the official scorekeeper for the team and had an extensive scorekeeping program that he had utilized when he was scorekeeping for MIAA baseball.”

Newbery also took great pride in making the Legion team’s gameday programs.

“He pretty much designed the program that we put out for every event that we had. He would contact the opposing team’s coaches and make sure that the lineup was submitted and included in the program. As well as including any kind of facts that might be entertaining to the fans, both for our team and opposing teams.”

Light recognized that filling the role that Newbery left behind will be difficult.

“Just reading through everything that was posted on Facebook about him you could tell that there was a genuine loss of a friend among these people. His impact on the community was great,” Light said. “Whether it was from the PSU sports information department or KOAM TV, all of those people are going to be impacted because they’re not going to find a single person to replace him. Because one person can’t do all of what he did.”

Former PHS principal Jon Bishop is now the SEK Interlocal principal. While at PHS, Bishopl interacted frequently with Newbery.

“Matt would offer help all the time.  He would be able to work in a few tournaments to work for the school when he wasn’t working for radio stations or communications affiliates.  He was a jack of all trades,” Bishop said.

Newbery told Bishop that he believed that his community was special compared to others.

“I remember him telling me that Pittsburg just seems to care a little more about things.  I asked him what he meant,” Bishop said. “He clarified that it wasn’t that other communities didn’t care about things, it just seemed like Pittsburg and some of the Southeast Kansas communities showed more pride than other places.”

According to Bishop, Newbery was proud of his community and would never leave his pride behind.

He was Pittsburg proud and forever a Dragon and Gorilla

— former PHS principal Jon Bishop

“Wherever Matt Newbery went, he was going to talk up his hometown of Pittsburg.  He never wavered from that stance and he never apologized for where he was from.  He was Pittsburg proud and forever a Dragon and Gorilla,” Bishop said.

Dan Wilkes, who worked with Newbery at PSU, attested that Newbery was highly beneficial to his work environment.

“He was good at helping share the stories of teams, coaches, and student-athletes and putting them in the spotlight for their accomplishments. He also was good at helping younger individuals in the profession learn the craft and grow. He was a mentor to so many people in my line of work,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes believes that Newbery helped pave the way for an entire set of professions in college athletics.

“Matt was in many ways a pioneer in conference sports information offices. Many NCAA Division II conference offices didn’t have full-time SID staff members before the early 1990s era when Matt began,” Wilkes said. “He had a Hall-of-Fame type of career if Sports Information Directors could have a Hall of Fame.”

Adam Jameson was a close friend of Newbery all the way up until his passing.

“I never heard him have a negative word to say about anybody. He was always smiling. Always had a terrific sense of humor and knowledge of sports and movies like nobody else. Just a positive and upbeat guy.” Jameson said.

Jameson’s favorite memory with Newbery was working the Dragon golf tournament.

“We’d sit and check the teams in and Matt would take the money and he’d always have a case of Diet Dr. Pepper. In the tournament, he took scorecards and kept track of the scores, which seems kind of insignificant, but it was a big deal to him. He didn’t have to do it, but he did it because he loved the Dragons.”

Although the tournament was hard work, Jameson would go back each year to see his friend Matt.

“I’m going to miss him at the golf tournament because I’ve been a part of that thing for at least 20 years. It’s a lot of work and a lot of people don’t want to do it. Part of the reason I kept going back is because Matt would be there.“

Jameson is confident that another person like Newbery won’t come around for a while.

“I think the community doesn’t really realize how much work he put in covering events and how much he loved sports,” Jameson said. “I’m just not sure that anybody will come along who cared that much about what was happening in our sports community locally.”