Bernard “Bernie” Matthews

On May 3, 2010 Bernard “Bernie” Matthews completed his journey on this earth. He died at home, surrounded by an intimate circle of loving family and attended to by a angelic nurse from Hospice By the Bay. He had been ill, was treated at Sonoma Valley Hospital and its Skilled Nursing Facility for two weeks prior to returning home to be cared for, loved and spoiled by his own family.  His departure resembled his life: peaceful, quiet, gentle, lucid, loving, and pain free.

Born in New York City on Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1927 to Irish immigrants, Bernie and his older brother John raised themselves on the streets of Brooklyn.  They were quite a pair.  John saved Bernie’s bacon multiple times most memorable being a rescue at the beach from an undertow, and being carried by his brother out of a burning tent during a camping trip. Following Pearl Harbor, at the age of fifteen, Bernie enlisted for WWII, lied about his age to the Army recruiters, and had a problem–no middle name- so they decided he would be Bernard Valentine Matthews — a nickname which followed for the remainder of his life. Soon he was on board the HMS Queen Mary, now a converted troop carrier, heading to the European theatre. He saw a lot of action as a gunner, bombardier and returned a decorated hero!

After the war, he married and moved to Denver where he was employed for many years at a mining and mineral company known as ASARCO. Without the benefit of a college education, he trained to become a chemist, and was responsible for the manufacture of compounds using hazardous chemicals such as arsenic, asbestos, cyanide, cadmium, etc. As he matured in his job, he insisted that younger chemists allow him to supervise the most dangerous chemical assignments, earning himself their respect and the additional nickname “the walking dead”.

Bernie is survived by his devoted wife, Frances Marie George, who was his constant companion these last years. He is also survived by his first wife, Dorothy Hauser. Their marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by their children: Paula Crowell, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; David Matthews of Denver, Colorado; and Brian and Karen Matthews, of Englewood, Colorado. He is also survived by five grandchildren and three great grandchildren on this side of the family. He is remembered fondly by his great friend and treasured sister-in law Ramona Matthews of Silver Spring, Maryland –  wife of brother John who preceded him in death.

His second wife of three decades, Mary Lou Matthews preceded him in death in March of 2007. They moved to Sonoma in 1997 from Lakewood, Colorado. Bernie is also survived by his stepdaughter and her husband, Pat and Norm Brown of Sonoma; his stepdaughter and her husband, Carol and Mark Zaitz of Denver, Colorado; and his stepson and his wife, John William and Tamie Pew of Lincoln, Nebraska. He also had six grandchildren and two great grandchildren on this side of the family. All in all, Bernie‘s life touched and benefited an extensive tribe!

When Bernie and Mary retired from their respective careers, they spent many years traveling the world. Of all the places they visited, they loved Ireland the most — returning  multiple times, with family members only to discover Irish family connections there that are maintained to this day.

Bernie will be remembered for his love of playing bridge with Temelec friends;  taking calculated risks playing and winning at black jack in casinos;  watching movies, live theatre, listening to music of every kind; and his love of reading, especially anything science fiction! When son Brian was a young boy he remembers Dad as always having a book in his pocket, which remained a lifelong tradition.

He remained intelligent, informed and entertaining to the end. His open mind, non-judgmental heart and sensitive appreciation of women and all things feminine and beautiful served him well.  He loved simple things: his dog; his horse; his roses; the New York Times crossword puzzles; a fried egg and crisp bacon; a telephone call from a friend or e-mail from a grandchild; and his most favorite expression of love — a hug and a kiss on the lips!  How we will miss him…

Bernie was, in a word, a gentleman. He will be missed and remembered forever. His life made a big, positive difference to many, many people. His family invites you to celebrate this wonderful man’s life at Temelec Hall on Sat. June 26th from 1:30 to 4:00 pm. The theme is “All Things Irish” and we will enjoy stories, music and a happy hour with finger foods and libations. Wear something green for Bernie. No flowers please – he would prefer donations to the Redwood Empire Food Bank or our local Sonoma Valley Meals On Wheels.

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