An 11-year-old boy who was the very image of courage and inspiration in a small western Kentucky community has died.

The mother of Owen Matthews said in a post on Facebook that her son, Owen, died at 5:28 Wednesday morning, saying, “Owen won his battle and finished his race by crossing into the gates of Glory.”

The youngest child of Chase and Jennifer Matthews battled a rare form of childhood cancer for the past 14 months. He endured multiple surgeries, long hospital stays and radiation and chemotherapy treatments for months.

His family, all members of Charity Baptist Church in Eddyville, and the community kept a constant prayer vigil for him. They lifted up Owen with heartwarming visits, organized benefit events and surrounded him with love. #Owentough became a rallying cry in Lyon County.

In a story about the family’s struggle in September, Jennifer said there were no words to say how thankful she was to a community that wrapped their arms around them.

“For 412 days Owen fought with all his might and all his power against cancer,” she wrote on Facebook. “I will never know this side of Heaven why God needed him but we will continue to trust in the Lord.”

She also showed concern not just for her own family but asked for “continuous prayers for the kids that were so loving and kind at school. Pray for the parents who have to have difficult conversations, and pray for the kids who are so young and won’t understand.”

Charity Baptist Church Pastor Mitch Coomer, who is undergoing his own personal grieving over the unexpected loss of his wife, said in the story in September that the family showed incredible faith throughout their journey with Owen.

“We’re a small community and everybody has gotten behind them,” he said in September.

Jennifer Matthews said she couldn’t have managed the journey without a strong faith in God. The family is faithful to the Lord and the church. Owen’s grandfather, Robert Waters, was able to baptize him last December. He was a minister for 25 years before health complications sidelined him.

The Matthews’ other child is Sarah, who is a freshman at Western Kentucky University. Her friends became Owen’s friends as he battled the diagnosis of a malignant rhabdomyosarcoma tumor in his pelvic area. The family had to deal with the separations that come with COVID as Owen was having surgery after surgery.

Owen kept a positive attitude throughout the journey, family said. Friends of Owen and his family kept coming to encourage the young boy throughout the battle, lifting his spirits with each visit, his mother said.