Celebrate Hope and a life: Graffiti owner fulfills bet to friend who was killed in a car accident

Pam Griffin
Matt Marsteller and Chuck Stiles became fast friends.

When Charles “Chuck” Stiles, owner of Graffiti& The Funky Blues Shack in Destin, gets a haircut Jan. 4, it will fulfill a New Year’s Eve 2012 bet he made with Matt Marsteller, who lost his life in a tragic car accident in Walton County on March 20, 2013.

Almost a year ago, Matt bet Chuck $500 that he couldn’t grow his hair for a year.

“I laughed and replied ‘I’ll do it for $5,000,’ ” Chuck told The Log. So Matt raised the money in pledges by the next day from all their friends, but said that the money should be donated to a charity.

After Matt died, Chuck was determined to see the bet through.

“At that point, I knew that the life I had known over the past 17 years had changed in a heartbeat,” Chuck said. “When you lose somebody you love, they’re with you everyday and through certain events, whether happy or sad, their memory helps coping become a little bit easier.”

A good cause

When it was time for Stiles to name the charity he wanted the money to go to, he thought of his friend, Dr. Sam Traughber, who donates his time to Hope Medical Clinic at Destin Church of Christ.

“I always thought that was such a great thing,” Chuck said of the clinic, which serves Destin’s working uninsured. “Then I befriended a homeless gentleman who goes by the name of ‘Cowboy’.  He shows up religiously every Sunday to clean the parking lot. Through my various conversations with him, I found out that he has been fighting cancer and the Hope Clinic has been there for him. In essence, they have saved his life.”  

Now Chuck is giving back with a benefit on behalf of Matt Marsteller on Jan. 4 at Funky Blues Shack in Destin.

The benefit is not about cutting Chuck’s hair. It will be about “Matt, Dr. Sam and Hope Medical Clinic, and all those who put others above themselves.

All donations plus 20 percent of the proceeds will go to the Hope Clinic. In addition a $5 donation, not required, will be taken at the door.

Friends beyond the end

Ben “Chip” Totten, who will attend the benefit, met Matt when they were 12 years old at Meigs Jr. High School. He called him one of his closest friends. He was able to watch firsthand the love between Matt and Sherri develop all the way to the altar. 

“The one trait about Matt that everyone will agree on was his love for traveling,” Chip told The Log. “Even when none of us had any money and could only afford Whataburger on New Year’s Eve, we all managed to find time to travel somewhere … always having a good time everywhere we went.”  

Chip recalled that before one trip was over, Matt was dreaming of the next adventure, and Sherri was more than happy to be with her one true love and along for the ride.

“His life was a ride that all of his friends were blessed to be a part of,” Chip said. “He lived life with a dream in his head and love in his heart. If anyone could live a lifetime in 45 years, it was him. We are all better for having known him and his allowing us to be a small part of his very big life. We miss our friend.”

Another friend of Matt’s, Greg Downey, met him on the school bus heading to Meigs Jr. High School in 1979.

“Matt was a go-getter from day one,” Greg told The Log. “I remember those days he would go from school to work at Sam’s Oyster House and never complain about all the long hours. He was never a stranger to hard work even during his teenage years.”

After high school, the two lost contact, but Matt and Greg never lost their friendship. Greg reconnected with Matt at Burris Motors while purchasing a vehicle.

“At this time he was entrenched in the automotive market and this would continue throughout his life,” Greg said. “Matt was an extreme ‘goal oriented’ individual as well as a visionary.  But more important than any of his positive traits was his love for those around him, especially the love for his family.”

Greg said Matt will be missed in many ways, and he was an amazing individual in every sense of who he was.

“He was my friend and a mentor, in one way or other, to all of us who knew him,” he said. “I can honestly say that one’s life was always better if you were blessed enough to share any point in time with Matt Marsteller.”

Chuck and Matt met in the early 1990s when Chuck bought a car from him at Burris Motors, but they lost touch until 1995 when Chuck opened Graffiti.

“Matt came in as a customer and we became quick friends,” Chuck told The Log. “Our boys spent their third birthdays together and have been best friends from that point on. Our daughter, Lily, and Matt’s daughter, MacKenzie, became best friends as well. As our children grew, so did our quality time.  Together we enjoyed many trips and laughs. His boat, aptly named Quality Time, epitomized his view of what life was about.”

 “I know Matt will be looking down on us, grinning and satisfied,” Chuck said of the benefit. “I will have a drink and smile knowing that he would have been extremely proud.”