Monday, June 15, 2009

Libbey's Funeral Talk

Sorry that I haven't been updating lately...there has been many things happening, a trip home to Oregon for a week, returned to Utah for another week and then just returned once again to Oregon on Saturday. Hopefully I will be finding a job sometime soon and then my life will begin once again to be full of entertaining things of which to blog about.
The funeral and burial for my Dad both went wonderfully, in the next few days I will type up my feelings about it, but to begin with I wanted to share the two talks that were given at both. My Mom had asked my sister Libbey to talk about who my Dad was and my brother Nathan to talk about the more spiritual side of my Dad and what we believed. I will share Nathan's talk as soon it is available but for now I wanted to share Libbey's talk, I thought that she did wonderfully in sharing who my Dad was.

I have the great honor to speak for our family in describing who our dad was, but first I want to thank each of you for coming. You are here, because my Dad impacted your lives in some way.

Who was Gary Alton Mathews?

Dad was a father, husband, grandpa, brother, a best friend to a few, but friendly to all, home-teacher, bishop, teacher, neighbor, a comforter, and a faithful and valiant follower of Christ. He loved his family, reading (we visited LOTS of used book stores as a family), was an avid sports fan, loved the outdoors, traveling, exploring, trying new things, genealogy, and learning. Dad taught us how to work and the value of it. Every week day during the summer, we had a job list, some of which were very creative, but we were responsible to complete that list of jobs before lunch. Dad loved sweets and would sneak us hard candy during church meetings and red licorice vines quickly became a road trip staple for our family. Dad also loved my mom and expressed it often. He backed up his love by often surprising her with a single carnation or other flower.

To prepare for this talk, I asked each of my siblings and mother, “Who was Dad for them? As we talked, we laughed, cried, told stories and felt great love for my dad. The following are a few of the legacies that Dad left us.

Teacher – Dad loved teaching; he actually started his bachelor studies in engineering until his Junior year, switching to Elementary Education, knowing that was where his heart was. Dad taught three years in Alaska and 31 years here in Lincoln County. He was known as the creative teacher and made learning fun. He used Portland Trailblazer statistics, the NCAA tournament, and more to entice students to learn and grow. Our Labor Days as a family were spent at Dad’s classroom, prepping it for the new school year. We would ready the bulletin boards, wash book shelves, and make copies of handouts. His co-workers became our family too (Mr. Steel, Mooney, Whetstone, and more), many of which are in the audience today. Thank you for loving and supporting my father and becoming our family. Dad taught more than 1000 students over his career. Past student’s of Dad’s expressed that his classroom was always open and they loved hanging out there during and after school. He could take almost any child and over the school year, shape them to reach their full potential. He loved the challenge of teaching every year and never really retired. Dad taught constantly, not only professionally, but in his life and by example. He was more of a listener than a talker, but when he spoke, it was often profound. When Erick and I visited just two weeks ago, Erick asked, “Dad, if you were to move today, what would you take with you?” With just a moment of thought, Dad answered, “Your mother (long pause) and my children.” He taught us where our priorities should be.

Serviceable – Dad lived a life of service. My brothers cringed every time my dad raised his hand volunteering his time and theirs yet again. My dad would say, “Me and my boys will be there,” and they were, to help families move, to clean a widow’s home, or work in someone’s yard, they were always there. Dad was serving yet another family three days after Christmas in 2005 when he fell down a flight of stairs causing the major brain trauma. But Dad also naturally served and performed random acts of service. Sonia, my sister-in-law and married to Ben, shared that when she first met dad, on a visit before they were engaged, she had fallen asleep on the living room floor, Dad walked by, noticed she was asleep and found a blanket to drape around her. Sonia commented, “Dad’s thoughtfulness very much impressed me.”


Family man – He lived to please and serve our family. I remember many years ago during his birthday, us kids were complaining that he didn’t have any hobbies (like golfing or fishing) that would make it easier for us to buy a present. His response still is etched in my memory when he said, “My family is my hobby.” And we really were. Joel remembers the interviews he had with each of us on Fast Sundays, and how we looked forward to having one-on-one time to make goals and share our fears.


Dad was our biggest fan and cheerleader.


Ben remembers Dad standing in pouring down rain at each of his cross-country meets (not a high spectator sport), cheering him on. Dad was the loudest fan at each of our basketball, track, volleyball and other sporting events. At times it was even a bit embarrassing. My Senior Year, I had a basketball game at Sweet Home over the Christmas break, my two older brothers were home from college and it was the first time they were able to see me play in high school. The boys drove out to Sweet Home to see me play and I was so excited. Well, they were sooooo loud, embarrassingly loud, everyone in the stands knew who my family was, but I knew my dad loved and supported me.


Another example, in high school, Kyle got very interested in gardening, and my dad took him all over the northwest, up to Portland and into Washington to visit specialty gardening stores, conferences and classes. Now Kyle is our family’s go-to man for gardening expertise.


Beth remembers that Dad would drive her and her friends all over, before she could drive. He took them to the movies in Lincoln City, swimming at Olaha Lake, each time, taking a book and waiting patiently in the car until they were finished. Beth
also cherishes the many times she danced swing with Dad in our living room.


Our family was so important to Dad. The summer after Ben graduated from high school, Dad realized that it would be the last time that our family would be together for a long time (maybe always) and so our parents planned the ultra of trips. We traveled along the northern states of the US, returning through the southern states. That summer we spent about 1 ½ months traveling, visited 31 states and two providences in Canada, drove 13,000 miles, experienced every weather pattern, and made memories for generations to come. That trip bonded us as no others could or have.


Beth also noted that the Christmas before my dad's original accident my family was all together at home. My Dad (and Mom) had felt that it was important for us all be together that particular Christmas. Then this past Christmas my family was all together once again, the last Christmas that we could, in this life, before my dad passed away. We are so grateful for those two rare occasions.


Avid Sports Fan -My dad loved sports, especially Brigham Young University sports. Our family was constants at church on Saturday mornings (along with the Taylor family) during football season to watch BYU games on the satellite. Dad and Bro. Taylor corrected their school papers during the games, and then we would play pick-up game during half time. All through basketball season, we could find dad out in the car the only place he could pick up the Utah based KSL 1160 radio station that carried the BYU basketball games. Throughout the years, Nathan remembers dad taking us to the University of Oregon versus BYU football game in Eugene, the Tournament of the Americas in Portland (the Original Dream Team), and multiple Oregon State games. Each of us participated in sports during our school years, thanks to my dad’s encouragement.


Devout follower of Christ – My dad loved Christ and was so firmly rooted in the gospel, but he lived it quietly. His mission to Argentina was a central point of his life and ours. He used stories from his experiences there to teach our family. His service as a bishop for six years was a honor and he took the stewardship in
that position very seriously. Many people still called him Bishop because of the great love they felt from him at that time. He served in each calling faithfully
and dutifully, Kyle expressed that Dad was such a good example as a home teacher during their years as companions.


But Dad was also had a sense of humor. Again, when Erick and I were here two weeks ago, Erick asked Dad where the most sacred place in the world was, and dad replied, “Navahoo, Ilinois” (carries meaning in our faith), and then Erick asked, “but what about Peru?” and Dad answered without missing a beat, “Well, I guess if you are a Peruvian.”

To finish, I want to read a brief blurb from his patriartical blessing, it reads, “Your life will be preserved to accept all the Lord has for you to do, and your life will be filled with activities that will give you joy.” I know that Dad finished what he needed to accomplish on this earth, and that it was filled with joy, even these past 3 ½ difficult years, there was joy for our family. Dad will leave a legacy to his family, his students, the ward and all those that knew him. We love him and will miss him deeply, but know that we will be together again someday.

In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

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