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Walter Matthews Jr., age 89, of Mt. Independence, went to be with the Lord on Sunday, May 29, 2022, with his loving and fully devoted wife, Shirley, at his side and at home on the property where he resided his entire life.
He was born Oct. 6, 1932, in the Connellsville State General Hospital to the late Walter Matthews Sr. and Mary Ellen Welsh Matthews McNutt.
Walter had many nicknames but the most enduring was “Greaser.” He earned that moniker early in life because he was quick and nimble on his feet and could run like a streak of lightning and was nearly impossible to catch. That same vim and vigor for life and his physical strength served him well through the years and endured to the very end.
He shared fond memories of his first paying job at Crawford-Webb in Uniontown with his lifelong best friend, Tom “Flicker” Hanan. One of the partners in the business, J. Vernon “Hap” Crawford became an important mentor eventually leading him into the field of education.
From 1953 to 1957 during the Korean Conflict, he served in the U.S. Air Force. It was during this time he had more than a brush with death resulting from a non-combat, severe head injury.
Following his discharge, he worked at the Westinghouse Facility at Large, Pa., and then worked as a surveyor with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. During these years, he began attending school at what was then California State College. He received his bachelor's degree in 1966, began his teaching career with the Intermediate Unit #1 shortly thereafter, and later earned his master’s degree from West Virginia University. His teaching career spanned 27 years and included schools at Masontown, Windy Hill, Smock, South Connellsville, and finally retiring from the Connellsville Senior High School. He had a passion for exceptional students (those with special needs) and was always concerned most about the least fortunate. He was never happier than when he would randomly meet a former student while out and about and learn of their successes, large or small.
Walter was always civic-minded and felt strongly that no matter what the current situation, good or bad, it could always be improved. He served on the North Union Township School Board and was the last surviving director of the original Laurel Highlands School Board. As a school board member at that time, he proposed a contest among the students to name the new combined school district (Laurel Highlands) as well as the mascot (Mustangs). He was president of the board during the construction and opening of the Gen. George C. Marshall Elementary School, the last of the new elementary buildings in the district. He also served as a North Union Township auditor.
On April 8, 1961, he married the love of his life, Shirley Jean (Landman) Matthews. They were blessed with 61 years of marriage. Throughout the years, they enjoyed traveling with many summer trips to Rehoboth Beach, Del. and many other points in the Eastern United States from Maine to Florida as well as many memorable fishing trips to the northern Ontario and Quebec provinces of Canada. For 18 winters, they were snowbirds in the Orlando, Fla. area where they established many long-lasting friendships.
Walt attended the Cove Run Free Methodist Church of Yauger Hollow and, and more recently the Community United Methodist Church of Evans Manor.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by daughter-in-law, Glenda Jean (Goodwin) Matthews; four brothers, Harford Dale (wife, Gail), William Harry (who died as a young child),Charles Theodore (wife, Wanda), and Emmett Delano (wife, Mary Jane); a nephew, Theodore W. Matthews; a brother-in-law, Joseph Jurzcak; stepfather, Fred McNutt; and lifelong friend, Mary Ellen Hanan.
He is survived by his loving and devoted wife, Shirley Jean (Landman) Matthews; two sons, James V. Matthews of Washington, DC, and Gerald D. “Jerry” (Lori) Matthews of Washington, Pa.; three grandsons, Joshua D. (Emilie) Matthews and children, Layland and Elliott, of Mechanicsburg, Christopher J. (Alexa Demo) Matthews and son, Jozey of California, Pa., Caleb Matthews of Washington, Pa. and girlfriend, Alexis Kostelnik; two step grandchildren whom he considered his own, Samantha (Corbin) Cline and son Barrett of Salt Lake City, Utah and Cody Melone of Washington, Pa.; one brother, Russell W. Matthews, of Mt. Independence; a sister-in-law, Marion Jurczak of Mt. Independence; brothers-in-law, Wendell Robert “Red” (Joyce) Landman, Raymond Edward (Faye) Landman, and Ronald Tracy (Kandy) Landman, all of Mt. Independence; lifelong friend, Thomas “Flicker” Hanan; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and many good friends and past students.
The family would like to thank and express their deep appreciation to all those who provided help and assistance over the past year during our husband and father’s declining health including the staff of OSPTA Hospice, Laura, Jackie, Angel, Ashley, Sally and Jeff; Kathy Taylor with Home Instead; Shirley Bebout, private duty nurse who compassionately assisted nearly every day over the past year; Wendell Robert and Sherri Landman, nephew and niece; Sam Yauger, neighbor; Karl Butchko, neighbor, Loretta Goodwin; Michele Chipps, niece; Darcia Klippi and Susan Matthews, nieces and constant errand runners; and Marion Jurczak, sister-in-law and special aide in every way.
Friends will be received at Burhans-Crouse Funeral Home, 28 Connellsville St., Dunbar, on Friday, June 3, 2 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, June 4, from 9 to 11 a.m., the hour of service with Pastor Roger L. Yeager, Sr., Pastor David Ealy and Pastor Jeff Marton officiating.
Interment will follow in the family cemetery, Zaring-Matthews Cemetery, Mt. Independence.
The family requests that face masks be worn during visitation and the funeral service.
Condolences for the family me be left at www.burhanscrousefuneralhome.com or, the funeral home’s Facebook page @burhanscrouse