Randal Barnes Matson
February 23, 1928 – March 13, 2018
“God’s finger touched him, and he slept.” - Alfred Lord Tennyson
Randy Matson lived a long and happy life. He brought joy to all who were fortunate to have met him. In his last year, even as his health and happiness ebbed, a caretaker commented that the world would be better if everyone was as appreciative of all things, big or small, as Randy.
Randy was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, to Andrew Jackson Matson, a coal miner, and Brinda Carrell Matson, a homemaker. The youngest of 8 children, Randy grew up in Pocahontas, VA, which was then home to a coal mine that provided fuel for residences across the U.S., and served the needs of the U.S. Navy.
Despite the impoverished circumstances in which he was raised, Randy only retained fond memories of his childhood. When he was 19, Randy chose to leave his beloved home to work on a Chrysler production line in Detroit. He eventually enlisted in the Navy and served as a medic during the Korean war. While he was in the Navy he met the beautiful and spunky Mary Alice Johnson (who was a higher rank than he!). In that era, the Navy policy for women who wished to marry was to discharge them, so Mary Alice was honorably discharged when the couple decided to marry in 1951. Randy was honorably discharged at the end of 1952.
The young couple settled in Mary Alice’s hometown, Greensboro, NC, where Randy spent most of his career at the U.S. Postal Service Bulk Mail Center. He and Mary Alice had four children: Randy, Jr; Ricky; Bill; and Mary Helen. Randy and Mary Alice raised their children with love and taught them the value of hard work.
Randy was heartbroken when Mary Alice died of cancer in 1985, and could not fathom ever again loving anyone so fiercely. Later that year he was diagnosed with cancer and was treated at Duke Medical Center in Durham, NC, where his loud and jovial conversations with friends and staff attracted the attention of a woman recuperating from surgery in a nearby room, Rowena Horne. Rowena, who was also recently widowed, stopped by Randy’s room, chatted, invited him to visit her, and left him her church calling card.
Randy and Rowena became fast friends and—after requesting Rowena’s hand in marriage from her elderly mother, and seeking approval from his adult children—Randy proposed to Rowena. After they married they lived at Randy’s home in Greensboro until he retired. Then they moved to Rowena’s home, “Breezy Hill,” in Polk County, where Randy felt he had “come home” to scenic views of the mountains every day from the lovely land on which Breezy Hill was located. Randy lived there until 2017, when both he and Rowena became too frail to live on their own. Their last home together was at Holly Springs Senior Citizens Retirement Home, where Rowena passed quietly in August, 2017.
Randy is survived by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The family is eternally grateful that Holly Springs was located so close to his son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Brenda Matson, whose frequent visits enhanced his quality of life. We are also blessed that he was attended by his extraordinary primary caregiver, Vikki Mollette, PA, whom he adored; and by the loving staff at Holly Springs, who treat their patients as family members.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Randy’s memory to Holly Springs Senior Citizens Retirement Home, 1881 Big Island Rd, Rutherfordton, NC 28139.
There will be a private, family graveside service in Greensboro, NC, where Randy will be laid to rest beside his first wife, Mary Alice.
Hanes Lineberry Sedgefield Chapel is assisting the Matson family. Online condolences may be made at www.haneslineberryfuneralhomes.com
- Graveside Service Saturday, March 17, 2018
- Gathering of Family and Friends Saturday, March 17, 2018
Randal Barnes Matson
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April 7, 2018
I have been doing some genealogy research to build a family tree for my children. Only within the last week did I learn that my mother's grandfather was Andrew Jackson Matson - which I learned by looking up US Census data for Pocahontas, VA in the 1920s and 1930s. From that I found that her father, Clarence Paul Matson, had seven brothers and sisters, of which Randall was the youngest. I was sad to hear that Randall had passed only a few weeks ago, and further saddened to know that his niece (my mother) has been living, for many years, not far away in New Bern, NC and never knew he was so close.
As for myself, the only Matson's that I knew (aside from my mother) was Paul Matson, and Helen (Matson) McIntyre (his sister), who were both living in Lexington (near Detroit), Michigan. My mother knew Helen well, and would keep in touch with her at least yearly. Paul passed in 1978, and it was then I learned that he (too) worked for Chrysler in Detroit. Although I don't know what caused them to move to Detroit (perhaps the war effort?), I imagine that Randall went to live with (or near) his older brother Paul and sister Helen when he worked in Detroit.
I am sorry for your loss, and sorry that I never knew Randall. My mother lived as a child with the family in Pocahontas for a short time and remarked that they were a happy family and she felt loved. Randall now rests with his brothers and sisters, forever loved.
March 15, 2018
Randy was my long-time scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 326 at St. John's United Methodist Church in Greensboro, NC. I spent many nights sitting around the campfire listening to him skillfully play his harmonica. Randy, Randy Jr., Ricky and Bill would tell jokes and keep us all laughing until the fire died down and it was time to turn in. Those have always been and will always be my most treasured childhood memories. Growing up without a father, that scout troop, under Randy's leadership, taught me outdoorsman skills that have served me well in a career in the military that I still use to this day. My life is richer for having had Mr. Matson in it as I am sure so many more lives were enriched by his character. I am now realizing Randy's path as I too am a widower and have a widowed girlfriend whom I just recently asked for her hand in marriage. She said yes. Love knows no bounds. You had a lot to give, Randy. You are missed. Rest well and peacefully. Tell Mary Alice I said hello.
March 15, 2018
I remember as a kid visiting Uncle Randy and Aunt Mary Alice and thinking how loud and fun the house was with all those kids in it, wishing I was a part of a big family like that. What a wonderful childhood you must have had! As an adult, I always enjoyed visiting Uncle Randy and Rowena and was glad whenever we were able to see them. Visiting with y'all in May of 2013 is a memory I will always treasure. I know you will miss him terribly. Praying sweet memories for you all. See you on Saturday.