RACINE — Jason Mateer, 37, of Racine, was found without his dog after he died during a car crash in Indiana Friday morning.
Mateer’s Ford van spun, left the roadway, and then vaulted, passenger-side first, into another vehicle at around 9:10 a.m. in Orland, Indiana, according to a release from the Indiana State Police. Mateer was pronounced dead at the scene.
This was the same van that Mateer had spent years in, traveling around the country making deliveries. This was the same van he would park in his brother-in-law Jordan Johnson’s driveway in Racine, where they became best friends over the last six years.
“He’d park the van waiting for his next delivery so we’d hang out and talk and catch up,” Jordan said. “It’s just a life taken too soon and too short.”
Mateer loved traveling, loved his adopted and biological families and loved his dog, Velcro. Velcro, a pitbull, and Mateer traveled everywhere together for every delivery or journey.
Police told the family the dog was not found, although they found the dog’s bowl and other canine items in the vehicle.
“Before he was trained, the dog would sit on (Mateer’s) lap while he was driving,” said Desiree Johnson, Mateer’s biological sister. “We believe that’s what might have caused the accident. Police said it was a freak accident.”
Jordan said that weather may have been the factor. But regardless of the reason, he said everyone who knows Mateer is devastated.
“It hurt us all. It’s a tragedy,” Jordan said. “He’ll forever be embedded in our minds and hearts because he definitely planted his seed.”
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Mateer was given up for adoption soon after he was born. For 30 years he had not seen his mother, Tina Murray of Racine, while he moved around Wisconsin with his adopted family as he was growing up.
For Thanksgiving 2011, Mateer and Murray reunited for the first time. Mateer had found her on Facebook and the two agreed to meet that day that Murray called, “the best Thanksgiving present I could ever have.”
“The joy in my heart,” Murray said. “I was never more excited in my life.”
There was much catching up to do after that. Mateer became close with the family and made a home in Racine despite his constant travels.
Between deliveries, though, he made a mark with his family and others. Desiree said that he always looked to help others.
“He was such a free spirit,” Desiree said. “He was always helping everybody. When I was short on my rent, he’d help. He’d help with handy work. He helped an elderly woman with housekeeping. He was always a helping hand.”
Murray said that she was thrilled to know her first-born son after decades apart, and she will never forget him like when they were apart before.
“I still can’t comprehend this,” Murray said. “I just can’t.”
Funeral arrangements have not been set. Both Mateer’s adopted family and biological family are working to do a combined service.
“We are all coming together in his honor,” said Teri Mateer, Jason’s aunt. “ We are meeting with his adopted mom, (Nancy Pecha) and we’ll be having a service together. We are coming together in love to honor him.”