Matthew (Russell) Smebak Abts passed away peacefully at home in Minneapolis on May 22, with his wife at his side. His love of a good story and good people was evident throughout his life.
He was born on March 13, 1979, in Minneapolis to Thomas and Martha Abts. He grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, and developed a lifelong interest in programming, gaming, and music. He left high school to travel through Europe.
When he returned, he earned his GED and joined the Air Force shortly before 9/11. He served as an Intelligence Analyst and specialized in Mandarin Chinese and not getting in trouble for reading Chinese comics while on duty. Upon leaving the service, he drove cross-country in his beloved Buick, doing research for the FBI and studying electrical engineering, finance, and criminal justice. He started and sold a private investigation firm in Colorado, earned his bachelor’s degree online, was an over-the-road truck driver, worked as an EMT, learned to sail, and played in professional poker tournaments. He spent several years auditing circulation data for major US newspapers and earning impressive loyalty points balances at low-budget hotel chains.
In 2011, Matthew received his Juris Doctorate from Lewis and Clark Law School. He completed an externship with an arbitration firm in Beijing, where he bought remarkably durable knock-off Ralph Lauren polo shirts that he wore throughout the rest of his life. He qualified as a CPA in 2014.
He also never ever stretched the truth about anything.
While living in a camper van in southern Oregon and serving with AmeriCorps, Matthew met the love of his life. He and Nancy Smebak moved to Champaign, Illinois where she earned her master’s degree. The couple relocated to the Twin Cities where Matthew went to work, in his words, “hunting down millionaires” for the IRS and Nancy began her career as a city planner. They were married in 2016, and their daughter Helena was born in 2018.
He is survived by his wife and daughter, parents Tom and Marti (Childs) Abts and sister Amy of Rochester, Minnesota, and sister Jennifer Vail-Abts (spouse Amanda) of Seattle, Washington, as well as a great many far-flung friends he considered family.
A memorial service for Matthew Abts will be streamed at 3:30 Central on Friday, May 29. Attendees may visit https://www.facebook.com/houseofmercystpaul at that time to view the service; no special login is required. Given Matthew’s strong dislike of cut flowers, a memorial to the family or the charity of your choice is preferred. Memorials directed to the family will help support dedication of a tree or bench in a Minneapolis park near Matthew’s home.