Our beloved father and grandfather, Donald Robert Matthews, passed away suddenly in Provo, Utah at age 94 of a brain aneurysm. He was born in Rockville Centre, New York to Robert Byers Matthews and Madeline May Morley as their second child and only son. He had an older sister, Dorothy Jean. He grew up in a happy, loving home with strong friendships in the neighborhood.
He attended South Side High School, then in 1942 left home to attend Valley Forge Military Academy. During World War II in 1943 he was inducted into the United States Army and was accepted into the 10th Mountain Division. After some pretty intense training at Camp Hale in Colorado, they were sent to Italy to help chase out the German Army there. He participated in the assault on Mount Belvadere’s Riva Ridge. He was a member of Company M of the 86th Mountain Regiment, a transportation unit. He received the Bronze Star and was recommended by his commander for the Silver Star for his bravery delivering munitions to a stranded unit while under enemy fire, but the paperwork was lost in the confusion at the end of the war and the medal was never awarded.
Following the war he returned home and enrolled at North Carolina State College to study textile engineering, as his father’s career was in textile banking. Eventually he switched to University of North Carolina and received a bachelor’s degree in economics. It was while at college that he was introduced to Amelia Ann Barbour and they dated for about a year and a half before marrying in Raleigh in 1950. Following graduation he accepted an offer to enter management training for J.C. Penney in Fort Worth Texas. When he decided against staying with Penney’s, the two of them traveled to Denver, Colorado to be close to the mountains that Don had come to love during his military training. He was hired by Gates Rubber Company and they spent the next several years exploring the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, hiking, camping and skiing. After a few years at Gates he took an offer to work at the Martin Company, as an engineer working on the Titan rocket system.
While in Denver they had two children, Robert, named after his grandfather, and a few years later a daughter they named Dorothy after Don’s sister who had died of Hodgkin’s disease a number of years earlier. Then they decided to move to Florida where Don accepted a position at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft at their Research and Development Center. The family loved their time in Florida, fishing and swimming in the Atlantic, and being on the East Coast made it easier for family to come down and visit.
Don and Amelia had both come from faithful Christian families, but also both felt there was something missing in their lives. In Florida they participated in a group that explored many faith traditions, searching for something. At this point Don was approached by a friend at work about the Mormon Church, which he and his wife had just joined. They agreed to visit with missionaries from the church, but Don didn’t feel anything positive from their first meeting and proposed they cancel the next appointment. Amelia persisted, and during that second meeting everything changed for them. Within a few weeks they were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Brent Crook. Their lives were changed forever. From that point on every significant decision centered on their faith in their religion. They began experiencing opposition almost immediately from friends and some of Don’s co-workers, but they had truly been converted and were steadfast in their new beliefs.
It wasn’t long before the family decided to return to Colorado. Dottie was having some health issues with the Florida climate, and they all missed the mountains and change of seasons. In the summer of 1965 they traveled to Denver by way of North Carolina and New York for family visits. Don was able to return to Martin, but after a short time decided to take an offer to teach economics at a small college in Steamboat Springs. The family loved the years they spent in this small mountain town. Then in 1970 they moved again, this time to Provo, Utah. He worked in development at BYU and later served for a time as director of development at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. As the children were now older, Amelia also began working at BYU. For a number of years Don and Bob worked to try to start a business selling cross country ski climbing skins, as Don had developed and patented a new design for them. This project went back to his days in the 10th Mountain Division, as climbing skins were an important of traveling on skis in the mountains. During this time he served as bishop/branch president for the 119th Branch at BYU for single students. He loved those years associating with so many young people at the university and made some lasting friendships. The family hosted a musically talented young man named Cesar Ruiz from Peru when he attended BYU for several years.
What followed were many years of financial challenges due to some unexpected legal trouble with a property they had purchased in Colorado. Many people recommended that Don sue an attorney who had acted unprofessionally and probably illegally, but he declined as he didn’t feel right about it. It took many years for them to work their way out of the debt that resulted from this, but they were determined to stay true to their obligations and pay off the debt. Meanwhile the things that were most important to them, family and their church, were wonderfully successful and rewarding.
There is so much more that could be said, but what we have learned from our father and grandfather’s example of dedication to family and the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be overstated. We have no doubt of his glorious reunion with Amelia, his beloved eternal companion who died in 2016, and we know that as a family we will all someday be reunited.
The family has elected to hold a private family graveside service at the Orem Cemetery in keeping with their father’s wishes. Donald was preceded in death by his parents and older sister, Dorothy Jean. He is survived by son Robert and daughter Dorothy Waterreus (Jeroen), with grandchildren Jana and Jessie. In lieu of flowers, the family asks friends to contribute to the Humanitarian Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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