Cape Gazette
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Barefootin'

Matt Haley died while riding high in the Himalayas

By Dennis Forney | Aug 22, 2014
Source: Matt Haley 2010 blog Some of his many friends surround Matt Haley at an orphanage in India.

Many people ride motorcycles for the thrill of the experience, feeling the rush of time and nature and life flooding all their senses both fast and slow.

Count Matt Haley among them. Grinning and riding local roads and foreign roads as he connected the dots between his many local and international enterprises, Haley felt good aboard his cycles. In many ways, they were his high. That, and building successful businesses that employed hundreds and entertained thousands, and helping disadvantaged people around the world. Heady stuff.

A news release announcing Haley’s death this week explained that he had died after being struck by a truck while riding a motorcycle in the Leh District of India’s lofty Himalayas. The collision, said the release, took place at an altitude of 18,000 feet. Everest, in the same Himalayan chain and the highest peak in the world at 29,000 feet, is only 11,000 feet higher than where Haley took his last ride.

He felt at home in that spiritually charged part of the world and knew no greater joy than the expansiveness that filled him when he was helping orphan children.

They were humbling experiences for him, especially with the Nepalese girls he adopted as his daughters. In a 2010 blog written while he was touring India, Haley reflected: “As wonderful as it is to see the children, there is always a sense of despair in seeing the surroundings and then an even elevated sense of shame to see how complete the people express themselves with happiness and gratitude.”

Matt Haley appreciated those qualities deeply, and in that atmosphere, at 18,000 feet, and on his bike, it’s hard to imagine he could have been much higher than in those last few moments of earthly consciousness.

Note on a champion fighter

Maria Powers called recently. She wanted to discuss a historic photo that we published in a recent Tuesday edition. With a crowd of men standing several deep around a roped ring, the photograph showed a boxing match in the gymnasium that used to be part of the Fort Miles complex in Lewes. “I think one of the men in the ring must be my father, George Gumbrell,” said Powers. “He spent 12 years in the Army and was at Fort Miles a couple of months. He was the Army’s official Golden Gloves Boxer. He fought for the Army in Madison Square Garden and also in Hawaii. They paid him to go to those places.”

Golden Gloves boxing is an amateur association that sponsors competitions around the country. Powers added that her father did more than just competitive fighting while in the Army. “He was wounded in India while serving there,” she said.

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