'Real love doesn't actually end': Mapleton Township remembers Conestogo Lake drowning victim

The Mapleton Township community is coming together to remember a man who drowned at Conestogo Lake last month.

Matt Ottens, 33, died June 13 after going into the water to help save a child. He's remember as a loving father and husband.

"I miss him so much, I think real love doesn't actually end, it doesn't actually go away," said his wife, Leona Ottens.

Matt found joy in putting a smile on people's faces – one of the reasons he grew acres of sunflowers with his wife on their property.

His death has resonated throughout the entire Mapleton Township community.

"He was so strong and so present as a friend," said friend Meg Yates. "If you needed anything, he was always the one you would call. He would show up with a great big smile on his face."

Community members have rallied behind the family since the tragic loss, raising more than $160,000 for his children's education.

"It's such a sad, sad time, words can't even describe it," said friend Rachel Eschlbock. "I still think to myself at least once an hour, did that actually just happen, is this for real?"

Matt was a cancer survivor and was planning to celebrate his remission with a second annual sunflower walk and run at his property to raise money for the local hospital.

His wife, Leona, is going ahead with the plan in his honour.

"We are going to have some music and we are going to do this in a way that's comfortable for everyone and we space out the times," Leona said.

She said she and her husband planted hundreds of sunflowers on their property, flowers that will be blooming and ready in time for the event next month – a way to remember Matt and all that he taught his loved ones.

"Just leave the small stuff," Leona said. "We think we are going to get 100 years, but we really got to take each day and celebrate it for the gift that it is."