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Beloved La Pine coach, drive-in owner killed in crash, fondly remembered

Players hold fundraiser at Coach's Drive-In to create scholarship in his honor

LA PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Well-known La Pine coach and recent restaurant owner Mike Mathias was driving home from Lake Chelan, Washington when he was killed in a crash late last week.

Witnesses said the 26-year-old's car went into a ditch and he over-corrected.

On Sunday, a sizable crowd, including Mathias's parents, gathered at the restaurant he opened early his year, Coach's Drive-In, to honor his memory in a special way.

Mathias was a JV basketball coach at La Pine High School. After the recent tragedy, his players decided to hold a fundraiser at his restaurant for a planned scholarship: "The Coach Mike Scholarship."

The players worked the counter at his restaurant on Sunday, serving up the old-fashioned burgers and shakes the place has come to be known for. Proceeds raised from the food and drink sales will go to the fund. The players have not yet decided who will receive the special assist.

One of Mathias's players, 14-year-old Jace Earls, told NewsChannel 21, “As a coach, he turned into more of a friend. I mean, he was still really hard as coach, but he cared about every single one of us -- even players that gave him trouble sometimes.”

Mathias's parents also were on hand and talked with us about their son. 

His mother, Kathleen Mathias, said, “It just feels amazing that my son was loved and cared about by so many people."

At just 26 years old, Mathias also helped out with other sports, and along with his successful restaurant, he was looking to become the next mayor of La Pine.

While he didn't have a lot of free time, his parents said he had his share of hobbies.

"Fishing fanatic," said Nick Mathias, Michael's father. "He liked to hunt, but he was a fishing fanatic -- not unlike his father. He liked working on trucks and stuff, but this business and helping out people was his life.”

The Mathiases said they will do everything they can to keep Coach's Drive-In open for the La Pine community.

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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