James R. Matthews

Nov. 16, 1945 - Nov. 17, 2003


James Robertson Matthews, Jr., 58, passed away on Monday, November 17, 2003 in Stockton. He was born in Oakland, CA and had lived in Stockton for nearly 50 years. Jim was an active member of the Brookside Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a Vietnam Veteran. He worked 30 years as a sports writer for The Record and 10 years as a teacher's aide at the Dewitt Nelson School
for the California Youth Authority.
He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Ruth M. Matthews; devoted father of Anthony J. Matthews and Blake D. Matthews of Stockton; Carolyn E. Friberg and son-in-law Scott Friberg of Sacramento; mother, Teresa J. Lilly of Sacramento; brother, John L. Matthews of Folsom; and sisters, Becky Keeley and Debbie Shumaker of Sacramento. Loved by numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins and was a special guardian to Stephanie, Alexis, and Tyler.
Funeral services will be held Friday, November 21, 2003 at 1:00 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Brookside Road. Visitation will be at 12 noon at the same location. Interment will be at the Cherokee Memorial Park in Lodi. Cherokee Memorial Funeral Home in charge of the arrangements.

A kid that Jim would admire
Published Thursday, November 20, 2003

The first thing Jim Matthews wanted to talk about was Curtis Brown.

I had just arrived at The Record after spending a year in Southern California's Antelope Valley, and Jim knew I had covered a BYU freshman running back while he was leading Lancaster's Paraclete High School to the last of four section championships.

''What kind of a kid is he?'' was Jim's first question.

A great kid, I answered, just the kind of kid Jimmy Matts would have admired.

Curtis rushed for more than 7,000 yards during his high school career at Paraclete, and he set a state single-season rushing record with 2,645 yards as a sophomore. He also was on the honor roll.

Jim loved BYU, and he loved good kids.

He knew Curtis could run the ball, but Jim seemed to take more satisfaction in learning that BYU's next big thing was well spoken, thoughtful and polite.

Curtis earned BYU's top offensive rookie award after ranking as the team's second leading rusher as a true freshman in 2002, and Jim knew good things were in store after seeing Curtis run for 217 yards and three touchdowns to help the Cougars overcome a 34-7 halftime deficit to beat Utah State 35-34.

Curtis red-shirted this season after a hand injury kept him out of spring drills, but he's expected to be BYU's starting running back next fall and Jim couldn't wait.

Jim won't be around to see it, but Curtis will score touchdowns for BYU, and the first time he does, he'll do it for Jim, a longtime Record sports writer who died on Monday at the age of 58.

''The first one's for him,'' Curtis said over the phone from Provo, Utah. ''Please tell his family that my prayers are with them.''

Franklin rumors untrue

Contrary to internet chatter and late-night phone calls to Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco's home, Franklin's football team is not forfeiting games for using an ineligible player.

Rumors started swirling about a month ago, and in recent days they've turned up on the message board. Franklin won a coin flip for the San Joaquin Athletic Association's fourth playoff berth after finishing in a three-way tie with Tokay and West for fourth place.

''All the rumors are flying around but it's all unfounded and it's unfortunate it was even put out there,'' Saco said. ''I was fielding phone calls at all hours of the night about this. Stockton Unified did its own investigation and everything is fine. It's over. There are no forfeits. Franklin is playing football Friday night. Period. End of discussion.''

If Franklin had forfeited, West would have moved into the playoffs.

''We got all our hopes up again and (Wednesday) they were just shot down,'' West coach Steve Lopez said.

Tracy era nearing end

Jeff Tracy's 20th season as Tokay's head football coach will be his last. Tracy will return to lead the Tigers next season, but then he and his wife, Tamra, will be off to see the sights.

''Lodi Unified has a two week break in October, but I never get to do anything with that because I coach football,'' Tracy said. ''I'm going to coach next year, but I've already got plans for the following October. I'm going to go back East and see Arlington and the White House and the site of the Boston Massacre and the Statue of Liberty -- just go back and see a lot of historic spots and enjoy the time off.''

What we lost was a friend

Published Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I didn't know until Monday that Jim Matthews was a descendent of Stockton's own Captain Weber.

It's one of those biographical notes you learn about a person when you start pulling together the details of his life.

In 18 years of working with him and becoming his friend, what I knew about Jim, who suffered a fatal heart attack Monday, one day after celebrating his 58th birthday, was that he loved sports, he loved his country, and he loved his family.

Jim was an Air Force medic who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints while in the military, and it was rare when he wasn't wearing a BYU hat or sweat shirt. No matter where he sat down to work at The Record, where he assembled the agate page four nights a week, he had a radio nearby tuned in to some sports event or, lacking that, a station that played rock 'n' roll oldies.

His memory of sports details was encyclopedic. The starting tackle on the 1981 Stagg team? Jim was your man. The score of a high school basketball game held two years ago? Ask Jim. The starting lineup of the Stockton Ports' 1986 California League championship team? Jim could tell you.

Some people use the Internet. The Record sports department used Jim Matthews.

He knew the nickname of every college team out there, no matter how obscure. We know. We tried often enough to stump him.

But Matthews' interest in sports wasn't because of trivial details. It was because of the players.

''He loved young people. He was interested in them. He loved it when kids went on and had success,'' said his wife of 28 years, Ruth. ''When Ed Sprague Jr. made it to the major leagues, he was proud of things like that.''

Matthews joined The Record in 1976, worked a few years as the preps editor, then left for other ventures and remained as a part-time employee. What he loved about the job was covering games.

He worked in the loan industry for a while. Ten years ago, he went to work at the Youth Authority, teaching at DeWitt Nelson. But at night, he'd come into The Record, endure good-natured teasing about BYU or Notre Dame, another of his favorites, smile when he was addressed as Joltin' Jim Matthews or Jimmy Matts, and help put out the paper.

''The thing about Jim was that he was one of the most knowledgeable sports people around,'' sports editor Sam Smith said. ''Ask him a question, and you could use it as fact.''

Former sports editor Mike Klocke, The Record's managing editor, marveled at his longevity in a transient business.

''What struck me was after doing this almost 30 years, how excited he was to be going out to a game, regardless of the game or what the teams were,'' Klocke said.

Jim didn't need to do the ''big game.'' They were all big to him, because they involved local kids who invested their time and effort in playing them.

The only kids he cared about more were his own: Anthony, 24, a girls basketball coach at St. Mary's High; Carolyn, 23, whom he walked down the aisle a year ago; and Blake, 21, who returned in September from a two-year church mission in Brazil.

Matthews never bragged about his accomplishments, never spent much time talking about what he had done, but he loved talking about those three. He would share the latest news from St. Mary's. He glowed when he brought in pictures from his daughter's wedding.

His youngest, Blake, was valedictorian at Stagg High and a Pinnacle Award winner. Knowing he was going on his mission, he deferred a scholarship to BYU to attend Delta College for a year. At the Pinnacle Awards ceremony, Blake told the crowd he was heading to Delta, not mentioning his mission plans. The next day, several people called the Matthews home wanting to set up financial aid so he could attend a four-year university. Jim was so tickled by those calls, and I remember how he laughed when he told the story.

Now back from his mission, Blake told his mother he didn't know if he should go on to school as planned. She told him he had to. It was his father's dream for his son to attend BYU.

''As much as he tried to be a conservative Mormon, he became one of the most fanatical,'' Ruth Matthews said. ''Not that he shoved it down people's throats, but it meant a lot to him.''

Matthews took pride in his devotion, as he took pride in his country.

He enlisted in 1965 and went to Vietnam in 1966. He re-upped and spent three years as a medic. It hurt him to see Vietnam veterans treated so poorly when they returned home, and he took solace in the change of attitude toward them in later years. He once talked about watching a Veterans Day program about Vietnam and how it brought tears to his eyes.

One thing he wanted to do was visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Jim also wanted to retire from the Youth Authority and go back to school to earn a teaching credential. He wanted to be around kids, and he longed for success stories by his students like the ones he witnessed by athletes he covered.

That he won't be able to do that is a loss for untold future students.

What those who knew him lost was a gentle soul, a compassionate, thoughtful, caring friend. In a me-first era, Jim Matthews was as selfless as they came.

We'll search until we find someone who can fill his position.

But we'll never replace Jim Matthews.



Memorial Page