“Youngest Deceased Poet to be Visited
During a Six-Year Pilgrimage”  

Walter Skold, a member of the Dead Poets Society of America, taking notes during a conversation with Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek, during his 2009 journey to pay tribute to deceased American poets.

During 2009, Walter Skold (also known as ChiefFallingLeaf – DeadPoetyGuy Skold on Facebook), met Mattie’s mom, Jeni Stepanek, during a chance encounter in the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park.

Skold, a member of the Dead Poets Society of America, was traveling around the country with the goal of taking photos and gathering information about notable American poets who have moved on from this life.

During that journey from his home in Maine, his time in Maryland would include visiting cities with graves and other sites paying tribute to poets like Edgar Allen Poe,  Ogden Nash, Francis Scott Key — and Mattie J.T. Stepanek.

While in the Rockville, Maryland park that is named for Mattie and that celebrates Mattie’s poetic life and peace legacy, Jeni Stepanek happened to be walking Mattie’s service dog, Micah, around the Peace Garden.

Skold was amazed at the timing, which gave him the opportunity to have a conversation with the poet’s mother, and to learn more about Mattie’s poetic style and technique and training.

Walter Skold, a member of the Dead Poets Society of America, in 2015 during his six-year pilgrimage to the graves of deceased American poets – including Mattie J.T. Stepanek who died in 2004 at the age of 13.

Mattie penned seven NY Times Bestsellers — six filled with “Heartsongs” poetry celebrating hope and purpose, and one filled with essays, poetry, and communications detailing his message of peace — for individuals and for the world.

Jeni Stepanek was amazed at the tribute, and that her son – who died three weeks before his 14th birthday, was being included on the list of so many notable national poets being honored with the visits by Skold and other members of the Dead Poets Society of America.

Now, Skold is on a six-year pilgrimage to visit that graves of deceased American poets who have contributed to literature and history across several hundred years. This “Poet Bucket-Checklist” of sorts is part of a 2015 Grand Tour titled The Graves of Southern Poets.

On this return trip to Maryland, he and two other members of the group visited Mattie’s grave at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland.

During their visit to Mattie’s grave, Walter Skold and other poets and Dead Poet Society members read some of Mattie’s poetry aloud, paying tribute to Mattie as a poet, and as a messenger of hope and peace.

“Of all the 496 poets whose graves I have visited, Mattie was the youngest,” Skold said.

“I went to find his grave with two other poets in the Washington area, and while we wept for the loss of Mattie at such a young age, we also rejoiced at the message that God was able to share through life and words.
We were able to read a few of his poems and to write one on the side of my traveling partner (aka van), Dedgar The Poemobile.”

Skold’s photos of his visit to Mattie’s grave are posted
in a Flickr album click here to view the album.

He also sent a message to Mattie’s mom, expressing his sentiment on this part of his six-year journey.

“It was very special to meet Mattie’s Mom back in 2009 on my first journey to poets’ graves. Now in 2015, I was glad to finally be able to visit his temporary resting place, because his final place of rest is in the eternal arms of Jesus. It will be great, God-willing, to meet Mattie in Heaven some day and talk poetry.”

One of Mattie’s poems is now inscribed on Walter Skold’s (named “Dedgar The Poemobile.”

Mattie said on many occasions that he hoped to be remembered as,

“a poet,
a peacemaker, and
a philosopher who played.”

Walter Skold and other Dead Poet Society members have affirmed that legacy desire, and rank Mattie as being a poet worthy enough to make their pilgrimage checklist.
Skold plans on returning to Maryland during August, which will include another visit with Mattie’s mom.



Click on the images below, shared by Walter Skold
of the Dead Poets Society of America 

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