ILWACO — So bright and alive that his nickname was Kilowatt, the death of Rhett Bennett Mattson after only 13 months leaves his family and the community in deep grief but grateful for his time on earth.
Rhett slipped away to investigate his world on July 16 and fell into his Grandpa and Grandma Ron and Sharron Mattson’s fishpond.
“Always exploring places he knew were off limits and climbing onto things no one ever thought possible, his little yet inquiring mind never stopped,” his mom Anne Mattson recalled. He loved the outdoors and his personal motto was “Go go go.”
“Rhett’s funny little sounds of excitement — “OOOOooohhhh” with the finger point — kept the family giggling with the sweet innocence of knowing it was just a parked John Deere tractor that he just couldn’t get enough of,” Anne wrote in a tribute to her son.
His grandparents immediately began CPR and summoned paramedics to their home on Stringtown Road in Ilwaco. He was rushed to Ocean Beach Hospital, where Anne said he received “extraordinary, loving, prompt, wonderful care,” and then LifeFlighted to Oregon Health Sciences University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
“Then the entire team that cared for Rhett at OHSU continued our path of extraordinary care,” Anne said. “Rhett fought for his life. What a strong boy. He was unable to overcome the trauma that he sustained.”
He died the evening of July 20.
Rhett Bennett Mattson was born June 6, 2018 at Peace Health Southwest Medical Family Birthing Center in Vancouver. His father was Brad Mason. Anne said Rhett’s birth was especially joyful because she had been trying to get pregnant since 2014. Rhett’s ties to the local community were deep — he was the great-grandson of popular veterinarian Allen Goulter.
“There is a hole, but in that hole is every one of you that have lived Rhett’s life with him,” Anne said. “I could never imagine so much happiness in 13 months … another 18-plus years may have made my heart explode.”
A celebration of life is planned later this month. See page A7 for details and a letter of thanks from the Mattson family.