Following in his father’s footsteps, the second generation Matthews’ man to portray the Old Timer in the Fort Griffin Fandangle, rode off to greener pastures Saturday, July 18, 2020, at a spry 101. From the Shackelford County pioneering Matthews family, Albany Texas’ beloved native son, John Alexander Matthews, was born on March 9, 1919, the only child of Joseph Beck and Louise Webb Matthews.
He often recalled riding his horse from the YL, (his childhood home and place of death), to the "picture show" at the Aztec Theater with a nickel in his pocket for the show and a cold drink. John attended Albany schools and graduated from New Mexico Military Institute in 1937. He told wonderful stories of riding the train to his alma mater, Cornell University, where he graduated with a degree in animal science in 1941. He was a proud member of Delta Kappa Epsilon where he mastered the art of being a smooth dancer. "Tex" glided on the dance floor to any music that was not, "too loud" until he could no longer showcase his partner in his late nineties.
After graduation, John entered World War II as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. He primarily flew B-17s from South America to North Africa helping to create maps, and in the process became a skilled pilot. John flew innumerable people in need with a smile and kind words for many years. He led a relatively quiet life as a cattleman, and unknowingly, a shining example of the greatest generation.
Well known for his quick wit, sound logic, and a twinkle in his eye, he was a walking encyclopedia on geography and historical events both domestic and abroad. He ran for Texas Land Commissioner in 1964, and served as a delegate for the ‘64 Republican Convention, the party which he supported until his death. He enjoyed politics and economics nearly as much as the Trinity Episcopal Church and the Fort Griffin Fandangle, where he respectively served as Senior Warden and president for well over two decades.
To know John Matthews, was to know his love of dogs, good horses and cattle, chickens, and birds. He was a tried and true man of the land. He was the founder of the Texas Experimental Ranch near Vernon, Texas. John loved a good joke, often sported a sly grin and delighted in pranks. He was semi-famous with Abilene's First National, now First Financial Bank board meetings for his canine companion’s attendance. John was the youngest and longest serving board member in the bank’s history. He served on the boards of St John’s College in Santa Fe and Annapolis, St. Stephen’s School in Austin and the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association. He also served as chairman for the first fourteen years of the West Texas Rehab’s Foundation Board of Trustees.
Affectionately known as The Warden to his family and friends, he was a true joy to be around. He aged beautifully and remained a consummate gentleman until the end. Until recently, he took wonderful care of his wife Sharon in their home, and subsequently, rarely missed his weekly visit with her in Abilene. Their love for one another was a sight to behold.
He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Sharon Osborne Matthews and his children: Jill Matthews Wilkinson (Stephen) of Austin, Matt Matthews (June Bell) of San Angelo, Kade Matthews (Chris) of Clarendon, Holly Green (Mark Brown) of Albany and Randy Green (Cindy) of Paron, AR; seven grandchildren, John Matthews (Margaret), Jamie Matthews (Mary Clare), Dennis Wilkinson (Melissa), William Matthews, Margaret Matthews Frederick (Jonathan), Watt Matthews (Elizabeth), Meredith Matthews Nicholson (Spencer) and twelve great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his sons, Joe Matthews and Watt Matthews.
John cherished his caretakers: Suzanne Kelton, Rita Crowder, Kay Box, Vicki Wright and Jesse Vega. The family extends their heartfelt gratitude for their loving care. In addition, a special thank you to Dr. Sandy Hazelip and Hospice of the Big Country for their compassionate and professional care.
A private burial will be held at Lambshead Ranch. Pallbearers will be his grandsons, Mark Brown and Jesse Vega. Honorary Pallbearers are Bob Brittingham, Frank Perry, Tom Perini and Rick Hanson. Arrangements are under the direction of The Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road, Abilene.
Memorials gifts may be made to the Fort Griffin Fandangle John Matthews Scholarship Fund (PO Box 2017 Albany, TX 76430) or your favorite charity.
The family first began in the funeral business in 1933. The Hamil's legacy, beginning with the Elliott's to John and Jo Ann Hamil and now continuing with Robert and Karla Hamil, is to serve families in their time of need.