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A Wetzel and Son Obituary for:
Matthias A. Behling
January 4, 1943 - November 9, 2019


Funeral Home - Wetzel and Son Funeral Home - 501 Easton Road, Willow Grove, PA 19090 - 215-659-0911 - Map

The following story was composed by Matt’s family.

Matthias "Matt" Albrecht Behling (1943 - 2019) had an emcompassing compassion for life that fueled his desire to help others. The full impact of Matt's life with us is measured by the passing of time. Those whose lives he touched will reap the benefits of his wisdom and kindness for years to come. Rather than viewing Matt's life in retrospect, it is gauged by his legacy through the people he took into his care. He guided young wayward souls, who assisted him in renovating dilapidated buildings into successful restaurants and converting old Bucks County stone barns into creative living spaces and apartment buildings, toward becoming fully functioning members of the community.

Matt along with his twin Ulrich Hans, came into the world on January 4, 1943 during an Allied bombing raid over the city of Berlin, Germany. He was raised in post WWII Germany, and their childhood can only be described as a hellish, poverty-ridden nightmare, where their only shelter was one bombed out building after another. Together with his twin, they honed their survival skills navigating through a war-torn and stigmatized country. Matt's new life began as he was miraculously pulled onto the last train exiting Berlin in 1945 by a German soldier who then gave him his first Hershey chocolate bar. His mother later recounted that the Hershey bar was much too rich for the young malnourished boy whose stomach was unaccustomed to such food, and sadly after vomiting, had the worst stomach ache he could ever remember.

Matt experienced many childhood depravations and understood at an early age, that his time on this earth is limited so he seized every opportunity to live life fully. He emigrated to the United States with his family in 1954. While others placed value on the accumulation of worldly possessions, Matt balanced a responsible lifestyle with the joy of living. He walked on the wild side, was self-reliant, was a man of his word, and had faith in his God-given instincts. He was an excellent judge of character and used people's interactions with animals as a window into their souls. Matt would take in the gifts of nature through months long motorcycle trips, countless windsurfing adventures in his RV, extended treks through Europe, and enjoying his daily cups of coffee watching the sun rise and set while overlooking Lake Galena with his wife, Rene and his dogs by his side.

Matt's character was built from the inside out. His compassionate heart fueled his deep spiritual appreciation for the natural beauty in the world. He never lost his intense compassion for animals, especially his dogs. He faithfully fed wildlife and birds every day of his long life and established a Saint Francis of Assisi-like bond with all creatures. "There is beauty in the pathless woods" (Byron) a partial quotation from Matt's favorite poem, encapsulated his approach to life. Matt found beauty in the challenges in life and relied on his faith over fear as he endeavored as a self-taught artisan, carpenter, restauranteur, woodworker and remained successfully self employed for many years.

Matt had a deep love and respect for his mother, Susanne (Erna) and maintained a close bond with her throughout her life. His heart was heavy for her as he intuitively understood the years of suffering she endured living through 2 World Wars as she raised her own four children as well as her sister's three orphaned children in post war Germany after her sister died of tuberculosis. Matt was a loyal, loving, compassionate son who spent countless hours later in life listening long into the night to his Mother's purging her soul of so much pain and sadness in her life.

Matt was keenly aware of his own mortality and in his extensive journals, he recounts thirteen times he faced death and survived. He was intellectually as well as athletically gifted and continued to pursue his challenging workouts at least 3 times weekly until just days before his untimely accident on November 3, 2019. At one time he could bench press 400 pounds and during weekly workouts performed 10 repetitions using 80 pound weights. He was also able to do 50 to 60 pull-ups at age 76. Tragically, he died in almost perfect health, mentally and physically.

Matt was also blessed to share his life with Rene (Irene) for almost 40 years. They forged a bond that withstood the best and worst that life could offer. Rene and Matt were inseparable and became almost as one person through their commitment of marriage. While already strong, their bond was fortified during the most challenging of times when Rene was diagnosed with Stage 3 Cancer. Matt steadfastly stayed by her side as she endured debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments with their life changing side effects. Matt was there to reassure her that she was not alone and they emerged from this life challenge an even stronger, more comitted couple.

Matt is remembered for profoundly impacting the lives of many. He had a penetrating sense of kindness and empathy for those less fortunate in life. He understood that the best way to show gratitude for his good fortune was to give it away. He was a master story teller and was never at a loss to tell just one more story from his vast cache of exciting life experiences. Matt had a sparkle in his eyes when he spoke of things about which he was passionate and he was beautiful for his ability to make others smile or laugh - especially if he sensed one was inwardly sad.

Matt, in his own words "lived a good, long life and had experienced the greatest gift of life, the truest of love. He had seen the best and worst and had no regrets". Public figures have monuments erected in their honor; Matt instead has become enshrined by those he touched with his warmth. He was humble in the manner of St. Francis for regarding the creatures that fly and roam our beautiful earth as his equals.

He left this world on November 9, 2019 "in peaceful resignation" like a bird - on wings. There was a subtle, almost celestial smile on his face as he prepared to face the unchartered frontier of death. Matt believed that angels had watched over him all of his life; now Matt joins the angels and watches over us. Rene finds comfort in knowing that he was the truest person she had ever known.

Matt is survived by his wife and life partner of 40 years, Irene (Rene) J. Behling; Brothers; Ulrich Hans Behling, PhD. of Fairview, NC and Helmet Heinrich Behling, M.D., of Andover, MA.; Sister; Julie Susanne Kimball, PhD. of Asheville, N.C.; Nephews; Robert Annan Bullock of Asheville, N.C.; Clayton Matthew Bullock, M.D. of San Francisco; Eric Max Behling, M.D., of Haverford, PA; Niece Sonja Behling of San Marcos, CA., and Sister In Law, Barbara LaRocca Ganther of Ottsville, PA, and many lifelong friends. He was preceeded in death by his Father, Hans Behling, Phd, and his Mother, Erna Susanne Behling formerly of Bedford, MA.

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