Mat Gaberty: His Legacy of Community Service
For much of his life, Mat Gaberty was a champion in the fight against heart disease.
A long-time resident of St. Clair Shores, Mat had a big goal in mind when he started his efforts in 1981 – he wanted to make sure that the people of Macomb County had a hospital close to home that could provide advanced cardiac care.
At the time, there was no designated heart center in the area. Patients would have to come to the emergency room for immediate attention, and then be transferred to another facility out of the county.
So Mat set out to change that. After a day of golf, he and his friends decided to donate some of their winnings to the American Heart Association. It was an important cause for the group, since heart disease had touched so many of their family and friends.
For Mat, the cause was personal. His father died of a heart attack when Mat was only 18. He later lost two close friends to heart disease as well. Finally, Mat had to have open-heart surgery himself, undergoing a coronary artery bypass. At the time, he worried about his wife having to drive to another county each day to visit him in the hospital.
His brush with heart disease prompted him to get serious about raising money and awareness. He and his friends formed the Mat Gaberty Heart Fund Committee in 1981 and the group began staging successful golf outings. Their goal was to help fight the disease that had touched so many of their friends and family members.
Later, the committee decided to direct all their proceeds toward the development of heart programs at Mount Clemens General Hospital, now called McLaren Macomb. Through the years, Mat’s committee eventually donated more than $2 million to support Cardiovascular Services at the hospital.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Mat told a reporter in 2002, “but it’s also been the greatest satisfaction of my whole life. It’s a great feeling to know that we have truly made a difference here in the county.”
In 1989, Mat’s dream came became a reality. The hospital opened the Mat Gaberty Heart Institute – the first of its kind in Macomb County.
Today, Mat’s legacy remains clearly visible at the facility, which was renovated and expanded in 1998. Now called the Mat Gaberty Heart Center, the facility continues to build on its success, offering comprehensive cardiac care – from diagnosis through treatment and rehabilitation.
In 2005, the hospital held a special celebration to honor Mat for almost three decades of fund-raising support. Seven of his friends contributed their own funds to purchase and dedicate a sculpture of his image. The sculpture remains in the Heart Center as a permanent tribute to Mat, who died on Dec. 24, 2012 at the age of 86.
Mat enjoyed other well-deserved honors for his work. The hospital’s Foundation named him its first “Citizen of the Year” in 1987. He was honored with this title again in 2002.
Along with his charitable work, Mat served as a leader in his city and county for many years. He served as Macomb County Road Commissioner for 18 years and he was elected to the Macomb County Board of Commissioners for four terms. Prior to his work with the county, he was a national sales manager for a chemical company and also served on the St. Clair Shores Planning Commission.
Today, the McLaren Macomb Healthcare Foundation continues to sponsor its Annual Mat Gaberty Golf Classic. The event remains a tribute to Mathew James Gaberty, the community leader who helped to promote advanced cardiac care in Macomb County.