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Matthew P. Darby

Coventry, R.I.

Good with his hands, Matthew P. Darby was a commercial painter, sculptor, and artist. But to his family, he will always be remembered as a hero.

Family members said they were told by authorities that when the fire first broke out at The Station, Darby made it safely out of the nightclub. He died, authorities told the family, after rushing back inside to get others, helping to save up to 12 people.

Watching video clips of the tragedy on television, family members wonder whether a man in a black shirt seen pulling people out of the burning building is really him, their son, and their husband. They want Darby's 10-year-old daughter Jessica to know her father died nobly.

"I want a parade up there," said Darby's stepmother, Debra Darby. "My grandchildren have to know that their father died a hero."

Darby, 36, owned Cousins Painting in Coventry, where he lived with his wife, Melinda, who is eight months pregnant with a girl they planned to name Sara. He also has a son from a previous relationship, 20-year-old Lee Kemler of Glastonbury, Conn.

Family members said Darby spent much of his free time with his daughter, designing sculptures, and writing poetry. He also enjoyed car racing.

"He did all kinds of things," Debra Darby said. "He was a really talented boy."

Darby's father, Kenneth Darby, said he was a devoted son who was always willing to lend a hand. "My son was supposed to bury me," he said.