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East Funeral Home

OBITUARY

Walter Ray Matthews

October 19, 1934April 28, 2014
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"He taught us how to stand up to opposition. In baseball, there is a lot of razzing and yelling...Walt was just like John Wayne, and lead the charge to retaliate." -Joe Morgan, Baseball Hall of Famer and two time World Series champion

On April 28, 2014 Walter Ray Matthews, a larger than life hero, whose steadfast integrity shaped the careers of countless major league baseball players for over 50 years, died in a local hospital with his devoted wife, Vicki, by his side, following a valiant fight against a lengthy illness.

Born on October 19, 1934, to Edward and Ava Matthews, Walter Ray came of age on a farm in Hicks community. His love of baseball and football took root early, and at Ashdown High School he distinguished himself as a defensive tackle for the Panther varsity team. While attending the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Walter Ray became a two sport letterman, playing both football and baseball. With the Razorbacks, his athletic finesse was fully realized in 1954, when he and his teammates upset Rice University 28-15 in a now legendary football game that drew a crowd of 38,000 to War Memorial Stadium. In 1955 as part of the famed "25 Little Pigs", Walter Ray lead the Razorbacks to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; despite losing to Georgia Tech, this bowl game was a harbinger for the Razorback football dynasty of the Twentieth Century. After graduating with honors from the University of Arkansas, Walter Ray was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, fulfilling a lifelong dream; however, fate would direct him to the minor leagues affiliated with the Houston Astros. As the first baseman and outfielder for the Durham, NC Bulls (inspiration for the Kevin Costner classic "Bull Durham"), Walter Ray still holds the record for the most home runs hit in a single year - 30 home runs in 1963. Following stints as manager for the Salisbury, NC, and Cocoa, FL, teams, Walter Ray was promoted to an Astros talent scout in 1967, which proved to be his greatest contribution to baseball. Traveling across the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, Walter Ray nobly sought out the best and brightest, regardless of race or ethnicity. Overall, he dedicated 51 years of continuous service to the Houston Astros, which is the most in baseball franchise history. In 2004, Walter Ray was inducted into the Texas Scouts Association Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Texarkana Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.

Aside from his prestigious career with the Astros, Walter Ray devoted himself to his family, and to raising pedigreed horses, some of which raced at Oaklawn and Louisiana Downs. The joy of Walter Ray's last nine years of life was his grandson Jaxon Jester, who he affectionately called "Peanut".

Survivors include his wife, Vicki Jester Matthews of Ashdown,AR; sons and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Anna Matthews of Little Rock,AR, and Mike Matthews of Ashdown,AR; stepsons Joe Jester and wife Kate of Fayetteville,AR and Jason Jester and wife, Emily, of Ashdown,AR; stepdaughter Beverly "Boopie" Hash of Texarkana, TX; brother and sister-in-law, John Ed and Juanita Matthews of Ada,OK; grandchildren Brooke Hash Asher of Houston, TX, Chase Hash of Texarkana,TX, and Jaxon Jester of Ashdown,AR; and great grandchild, Hosston Asher of Houston,TX.

He was a Baptist and attended Central Baptist Church in Ashdown,AR.

His body will lie in state from noon Saturday, May 3, 2014, until 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at East Funeral Home, Moores Lane.

Services will be 1:00 PM Tuesday May 6, 2014 at East Funeral Home, Moores Lane Chapel, Texarkana,Texas with Brother Don Embry of Ashdown,AR, and Brother Phil Lineberger of Sugarland, TX, officiating. Special tributes from the baseball fraternity will include; Tal Smith, former Astros President, Pat Gillick, Hall of Fame, Senior Advisor for Philadelphia Phillies, Bill Wood, former Astros General Manager, Doug Deutsch, Retired Astros Scout, Tim Purpura, Texas Rangers, Dan O'Brien, Special Assistant to the GM Milwaukee brewers, Gerry Hunsicker, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pat Murphy, Tampa Bay Rays, Lew Temple, Actor "Unstoppable" , "The Lone Ranger", " The Walking Dead", "The Waitress".

Family will receive friends from 6-8pm, Monday, May 5, 2014 at East Funeral Home, Moores Lane.

Memorials may be made to the Walt Matthews Memorial Baseball Fund at Regions Bank Account#0199792249.

Online tributes may be submitted to www.eastfuneralhomes.com

" I Have fought the good fight; I have finished my course. I have kept the faith."-2 Timothy 4:7

" Our beloved Walter Ray has been for the last time called safe at Home."

Services

  • Visitation

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • Funeral Service

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Memories

Walter Ray Matthews

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Juanita Matthews

May 8, 2014

Walt has been my brother in law for almost 33 years. During that time, we have gone through many family happenings. We have grown closer during the last ten years and especially in the last four years. These years have given us time to visit about everything under the sun or to just sit in the same room. The last four years have been tough but Walt never failed to ask about my grandkids and my daughter. He always teased me about the school falling apart after I retired. Every time we came to visit, he greeted us with a smile and when we left, he always told John how to drive. John has a bond with Walt that was tightened even more in the last two years. Nothing can break that bond. We both loved Walt so very much and we will miss our trips to Arkansas to see him and Vicki. We will keep Vicki in our hearts.
All our love,

May 6, 2014

Dearest Vicki and Family,
I cannot find any real words to express my sadness and condolences on the passing of one of the finest gentleman I have ever met, Walter Ray Matthews..a huge mentor, friend, icon in our scouting profession but moreso in life itself..people like Walt are so loved because it insures our deepest values of what is right about our complex world and I will forever take his wisdom, humor, friendship and compassion forever and ever...how awesome it is to just be associated with him...
God Bless you as you will find your strength through so many wonderful memories and knowing how many people he truly made better, just being around them as Heaven just got an All-Star.

Paul Ricciarini & Family

Brittney Cowling

May 5, 2014

I have had the pleasure of caring for Walter Ray the past two years at Little River Hospital in Ashdown. He was such a joy to talk to and take care of. He never demanded anything and was always so appreciative of everything we were able to do for him. Walter Ray was not just a patient to me, but he became my friend. As a nurse I find myself being concerned about the well-being of my patients, but very few are concerned about my well-being. Walter Ray always made sure I was happy and genuinely cared about me. I will miss being able to take care of him and visit with him. I look forward to the day when he and I can play catch together, and he can maybe even give me a batting lesson or two. I love you Walter Ray and Vickie. I will remember you in my prayers.

Ginny

May 5, 2014

My heart goes out to you all, especially to you Vicki. You took such great care of him. He was such a kind and humble man. It was a joy helping with his care. I like to think of him as my buddy. He will be greatly missed. He always had a sparkle in his eye and a grin on his face. GOD BLESS. Ginny

Douglas King

May 5, 2014

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Vicki and family. Walter Ray was truly blessed that our Amazing God put you into his life. You have been his angel!Just as you have said you were blessed by his presence in your life. May the memories of happier days bring you comfort in the days ahead. I'm a phone call away and I cherish my new friendship!
God Bless You
Douglas

Pete Williams

May 5, 2014

Our thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.

Cindy Picerni

May 5, 2014

On behalf of the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, we would like to send our deepest condolences to the Matthews family. Our thoughts & prayers are with you all.

God Bless,

Cindy Picerni
Executive Director

May 5, 2014

I feel it's almost an intrusion at a time like this. But I must tell you how deeply I feel in your sorrow. It was a privilege to have known Walt; and his loss will be felt by many, for a long time to come. I send kind thoughts and sympathy to you and your family.
Hank Allen; Houston Astros.

Chase Hash

May 4, 2014

My true inspiration, wasn't able to spend the last couple years of my life with him as I did growing up but the memories I had of my grandfather when I was younger will always be embedded in my heart. He was an amazing person & grandfather. I will miss you dearly papaw.

Vicki Matthews

May 4, 2014

I was honored to be able to spend 10 years with my precious Walter Ray. We had many wonderful memories together. When he became sick he was a joy to take care of because he was so appreciative of everything anyone did for him.
He didn't complain but rather made the most of a bad situation. Always cracking jokes until almost the very end. He was the perfect patient, friend, and husband.
I love him and my heart is hurting but grateful to God that he is not suffering anymore. I will always cherish our time together.

FROM THE FAMILY
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