In memory of

Donald Jeune Matthews

February 11, 1926 -  November 25, 2018

Donald Jeune Matthews
b. February 11, 1926
d. November 25, 2018

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Don Matthews was the eighth of ten children born in Brantford to immigrants from Guernsey, Channel Islands. His father worked at the Brantford Expositor as a stereotyper. At 17, Don enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and was trained as a tail gunner.

After the war, he graduated in Engineering at Queen’s University, and married Joyce Drake, also of Brantford. They moved to London, Ontario, and had six children: Dona, Shelley, Deborah, Virginia, Jack, and Carole. He later married Phyllis Gorman, with whom he had three children: Joseph, Cayleah, and Gabrielle.

In 1953 he borrowed $5,000 to buy his first backhoe, and established Matthews Construction, which grew to Matthews Group, an international construction company. In 1972, he was elected President of the national Progressive Conservative party. Later, he was elected to the board of the Bank of Canada.

His proudest achievement was being part of the creation of the Thames Valley Parkway, the 40km path that runs throughout London and is enjoyed by countless runners, walkers, strollers and cyclists.

With the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, he began to slow down, and moved to Sunnybrook Hospital K Wing, where he was tended with dignity by the compassionate staff and his devoted caregiver, Thelma Abriam.

Don was predeceased by five sisters: Una, Florence, Mabel, Winnifred, and Josephine, and two brothers, Victor and Frank. He leaves behind two sisters, Shirley Pettigrew and Barbara Rutherford, nine children, twenty-one grandchildren, twenty-one great-grandchildren, and sixteen nieces and nephews.


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Judy Langsner (Niece)

Entered November 28, 2018 from Paris, ON

I have so many amazing memories of Uncle Don, but I thought I would share a couple that stand out:
His laugh - who couldn't be entranced by his booming laugh that invited you to laugh along with him??
His generosity - whether it was hosting countless Christmas parties at RR6 (all the cousins have to remember those!), having 100th birthday parties, or helping out his siblings, Don was always there for the family.
His love of a good argument - and his willingness to sometimes listen! I remember getting into several good (can I say riotous?) debates with Uncle Don about public education (he was against it). As a young teacher, I was (and still am) very pro-public education. After one of our debates (which didn't go well for me), I sat down and wrote him a long letter about why I felt we needed public education. Mom (Aunt Barb) later told me that he kept that letter and shared it with friends in politics. I think it speaks to Uncle Don's character that he was willing to listen to hear another side.
Thinking of the whole family...

Dona Matthews (daughter)

Entered November 28, 2018 from toronto

I'm glad you have so many happy memories of my father/your uncle, Judy!

I want to take issue with one thing you said, though. As you know, I have been deeply involved in public education for several decades. My dad was a big supporter of the work that I did to support gifted learning needs, which he agreed was especially important for those kids who might not otherwise get a chance to develop their high-level abilities, virtually all of whom are in public schools. He and my mom both went to public schools. They sent all of their six children to public schools, and taught me that a society is only as strong as its public education system. So, I would be most interested to hear the substance of his argument against public schools! I am thinking he was probably just being a devil's advocate with you, and enjoyed your response to the provocation.

Don McIntosh (Nephew)

Entered November 28, 2018 from Coquitlam, BC

Uncle Don was an unforgettable character - engineer, businessman, family man, politician, dynamic, larger-than-life, mercurial, jovial, patriotic, sometimes infuriating, go-getter with an uproarious laugh that made you think he was up to something - and he usually was.

He was instrumental in keeping the Matthews clan (his brothers and sisters and their offspring) close even after our grandparents died. I know that he held my mother Una - his oldest sister - in the highest regard and esteem and often sought her counsel.

The best of times were those Christmas dinners and parties - great memories. It was through those parties that I had the pleasure and honour of getting to know some of his amazing children quite well. I know he was justifiably proud of all of them.

I sat down with him a few years ago to interview him and he told some interesting and, I am sure, embellished anecdotes. If anyone would like the recording I made of that interview, you are welcome to it. Just send a request to my email address.

I am sure he would have preferred to leave this earth in a more dramatic style but he certainly made his mark.

Marvin & Marjiree Kale (former employee of Matthews Group)

Entered November 28, 2018 from Surrey, BC

Marjiree and I would like to pass our condolences on to Jack and the family.
I started my construction career with Matthews and worked for Don and then for Jack.
Don and Jack were great guys to work for. They expected an honest day's work, treated everyone fairly and had a great sense of humour.
Don was a wonderful man and I'm grateful to have known him.

Cayleah J Matthews (Daughter)

Entered November 28, 2018 from London

My dad had this incredible lively spirit from his joyous belly laugh to making you feel like you could do anything, that anything was possible. Many of the things said about my dad refer to his successes in his career and politics but to us those things didn’t matter so much and I don’t think the titles mattered so much to him. He truly was more concerned with doing something important rather than being someone important.

I remember dad cheering loudly at my basketball games and even my graduation, or the days of fishing and long walks at Wolfe Island, or the letters dad would send when we were at camp. Dad made a massive effort to see us on weekends as we didn’t live with him, driving to London from Toronto to pick us up for the weekend and sometimes turning around to take us to Wolfe Island. He was a great teacher, wanting us to learn about the world, and a true inspiration even until the end. Love you lots Dad, miss you and thank you for the lessons I will never forget, may you rest in peace.


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