Monday, 12 March 2012
Mike was a vibrant and witty man, a larger-than-life presence, treasured by his friends and family for his irreverent exuberance. Growing up in Vancouver, he went to Magee High School, which he described as a peak period in his life. He celebrated his lengthy undergraduate career at UBC, where he hung out at the Players Club and the Ubyssey. In Montreal, he worked at the McGill Library, attended graduate studies at Sir George Williams University, and played baseball with the York Street Tigers where his nom-de-baseball was Magic Mitt. Back on the West Coast, he began his thirty-three year career teaching English at Malaspina College, now Vancouver Island University, and busied himself with theatrical activities, running (7 marathons), and writing book reviews and articles about food, wine and people.
Mike dearly loved his family, especially his granddaughter Charlotte and his talented dog Victor. He took pleasure in chatting to checkout clerks, bank tellers, shopkeepers, colleagues, passengers on the Protection Island Ferry, and whomever else would respond to his skill-testing questions, word games, rants and puns, encounters which he believed brightened people’s lives. The natural world delighted him, and he was a constant champion of the Protection Island Community Garden. He loved the music of Handel, Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, and all the Protection Island musicians. An enthusiastic cook, his specialties were plantain frittatas and Saskatoon berry pies. He was keen on crossword puzzles, and his extensive collection of pens and reading glasses was renowned.
He detested cruelty to animals, orange safety vests, sentimentality, bragging, car alarms, plastic water bottles, and the use of the word “multiple” rather than “many”, or any long word when a shorter one would do.
Mike is survived by his wife Carol, daughter Alison (Alex Taylor), granddaughter Charlotte, brother Dick (Diane), in-laws Rod Dobell (Marnie), Ken Dobell (Pam), eleven beloved nieces and nephews, and sixteen great-nieces and great-nephews.
Those who share his passionate love of animals may wish to make a donation in his name to the SPCA. In recognition of his love of teaching, donations may be made to the Vancouver Island University Mike Matthews Scholarship Fund. In appreciation of the wonderful care he received in his last few weeks, donations could be made to the Palliative Care Unit at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.
The family thanks all the staff of the Nanaimo hospital and especially Dr. Kim Waterman, Dr. Robin Love, and the Palliative Care nurses.
A memorial will be held Sunday, April 1st, 2012 at 3:00pm at Bowen Park Auditorium in Nanaimo, B.C.
There are many more messages of support which haven't made their way to the
blog, simply because we have been overwhelmed by the responses we have
received and we haven't always been sure that people wanted the message
redirected to the blog. If your message doesn't appear here, please know
that it was read and deeply appreciated.
With heartfelt thanks,
Carol, Alison, and family
Hannah and I had our birthdays on the 25th and awoke the next morning to the sad news. It felt so odd that we had been celebrating as Mike battled his way out of this world. I thought he probably would have made light of it with a clever quip.
We all loved him as children, but being in his class at Malaspina allowed me to know him better as an adult. It warms my heart to remember him saying that he enjoyed having me there. I think it must have looked like I was hanging on his every word, but in truth I sometimes faded off into a fit of fondness for his enthusiasm, his thoughtful looks directed at the ceiling and his boundless positivity. So while he was saying something clever, I was basking in his energy and thinking, "Mike Mathews, I just love you to bits."
I'm so sad and sorry for your loss, and also grateful that he was here and shared his abundant gifts so freely with the world.
My heart goes out to you in your loss of beloved Mike, partner, adventurer,
dog lover, educator, father, and the many other strengths/roles/gifts he
brought into the world during his time in this place. I can only appreciate
how difficult the last months have been for you and your family and close
friends and I am only hopeful that his leaving-taking was peaceful.
In the days that pass, I am holding space for you, sending you my positive
energy for the strength you need in these moments. Your wisdom, perspective,
amazing courage, wit, humor and resiliency will all be needed I expect and
extending my faith that your resiliency will increase as live this next
stage with grace.
And I offer whatever I can in support that might be helpful to you Carol.
And I also know that you have a wonderful family and extensive support
system of friends circle you with love, tangible help and care.
Hugs to you virtually, Laureen
I feel so much about Mike having passed away. I have such fond memories and I am glad to say such recent ones. I remember being a bit awed and a little scared of Mike when I was a child. I have a vivid memory of Alison putting her head into her father's massive (at the time it was impressive to a small kid) gut and pushing him around the kitchen floor. This might have been in the house in Harewood but as I recall it was the one near Brechin School on Millstone. I found that being afraid of Mike was not an option after witnessing the way my friend could push him around. He was always eager for conversation. I do not remember spending quiet time in repose with Mike. He was always a force of mental and verbal energy when I was around. Even if he wasn't speaking I could feel him formulating the composition of his next missive (of, as often, his rant).
I will miss his presence in my world but my heart aches for you and Alison and Charlotte and Victor.
Much love to you all,
It is my sad duty to notify the VIU community of the loss of one of its
long-time members, Mike Matthews of the English department.
Mike died on Saturday, February 25, after a brief struggle with lung cancer,
having been admitted to Emergency only on February 8. Mike leaves behind his
wife Carol, who has strong connections of her own to Malaspina/VIU having
served as one of our deans, and their daughter Alison, who has also taught
for us a few years ago. Mike was 74.
Mike Matthews joined Malaspina College at the old Kennedy Street campus in
1970, a year after it opened. Over the years until his retirement, Mike
taught hundreds of students their college composition, or Canadian
literature, or both in the Arts One program. This man kept students engaged
the old-fashioned ways: through passion for his subjects, gusto, and not a
little dash of theatricality. Mike would walk into a classroom carrying his
trademark music stand as a portable lectern, and if you walked by that
classroom you would hear Mike in full flight. No technology required; in
fact, Mike's struggles with technology are a legend unto themselves.
In those early days of the College, Mike helped to develop the department's
expertise in and connections to Canadian literature and writers, and he
helped develop the community through literary and theatrical productions and
performances. After his retirement, Mike returned to teach a few courses for
the English department, and he also got involved in the ElderCollege
I am sure many of you have a memory of Mike Matthews - I know I have
several. Many are posted on a blog that Carol maintained over the past few
Carol and Alison are still in the planning stages of a memorial to Mike,
sometime later in March. Also, I believe there are already discussions to
create a scholarship for students in Mike's memory. I will provide further
details as I receive them.
My thoughts go out to Carol and Alison. This is, indeed, a loss.
Steven M. Lane, Ph.D.
Academic Planning and Aboriginal Initiatives
Vancouver Island University
900 Fifth Street
CANADA V9R 5S5
We were, of course, shocked at the rapid onset of Mike's illness. Somehow his image in my mind does not fit with this.
I may have already sent the following Wendell Berry poem to you on some other occasion.
All our love
For Robert Penn Warren
At the first strokes of the fiddle bow
the dancers rise from their seats.
The dance begins to shape itself
in the crowd, as couples join,
and couples join couples, their movement
together lightening their feet.
They move in the ancient circle
of the dance. The dance and the song
call each other into being. Soon
they are one – rapt in a single
rapture, so that even the night
has its clarity, and time
is the wheel that brings it round.
In this rapture the dead return.
Sorrow is gone from them.
They are light. They step
into the steps of the living
and turn with them in the dance
in the sweet enclosure
of the song, and timeless
is the wheel that brings it round.
Bill New just sent me a note to say that he had read Mike's obituary in today's paper. Needless to say, Pat and I were both shocked. After our return from Europe in late January, I left a brief holiday greeting and message for you and MIke on your answering machine. I was puzzled when I didn't hear back from you but now I realize what you must have been going through. I'm not quite sure what to say except that I feel a great loss, a huge gap in all of our lives. Even though we have not seen that much of each other over the last while, you two have always been very special to us, from those early days on the beach in Lantzville through to the all too short meetings in the Longwood Pub. What I regret is not telling Mike how much I admired him, as a colleague, as a writer, as a wit, as a friend, but then if I had said anything he would have argued with me anyway, denying me my view just for the sheer pleasure of verbal jousting and out of modesty. There are few people who through the force of their presence influence us but for me Mike was and will remain one of those people. I've always felt the two of you lived your lives to the fullest and for that I am thankful. Please accept our condolences and love. Ditto to Alison, she is all the best parts of both of you.
Ron and Pat
I took his Technical Writing course at MalU and had a great time in his classroom, especially watching him trying to figure out which red-framed
(weren't they identical?) glasses were the reading glasses and which ones he needed to see our faces. Read (remove glasses); lift head to address students (put on other glasses); bow head to re-read text (take off glasses/put on other glasses).. and repeat many, many times throughout the three hour class... J
I remember him as a very dedicated instructor, full of humour, who always had the time for a student when they needed it.
I think of you every day and especially now. I know you are very strong, and you are not a stranger to loss, and I also suspect that you will just be putting one foot in front of the other for a while. It is so evident that you are surrounded by circles and circles of love and support, and I hope you count me as being one in those circles.
I want to thank you for your generosity in establishing and sharing the blog with us. It helped to feel connected to you and Mike, without one feeling intrusive into what for you and Allison and Mike, would be an intensely personal experience. It speaks to your deep and abiding love for Mike that you would make these intimacies available to the rest of us, who also deeply care.
My sense is that what you said about Mike, that he had no regrets, had a good life, one that was mostly intensely happy/gleeful, must have been so true, in that he had no need to cling to life, prolonging his suffering. Such a blessing. Although I know that being the one/s left behind, one can’t help but selfishly wish for one more day, one more week.
I hope to see you, after things settle, you get your bearings and you feel like it.
My love to you
Patrick and I are on Galiano and just heard about Mike. I am so sorry. I can't take it in and can't imagine how you can. You have been astonishing these past weeks. If there is a definition of love it could not be shown any more clearly than in your actions and presence with Mike these past weeks. I am so sorry. Know that you are loved and that we are here for whatever you need, whenever you need it. With love, eve
Collins is especially "distracted" - his word. He talked earlier tonight about swimming with Mike at Trafalgar Beach after meeting him in '61 or '62 when Matthews lived on MacDonald Street and also about how kind you both were to him in Montreal when he lived with you for awhile before you found him a room at Wattier's. I remember very clearly Mike in his overalls feeding us on the large back porch you had in Montreal, in 1967 - happy times when we were all young and healthy.
Very glad to hear that you have Alison, Alex and your dear Charlotte with you and I know you will have lots of Mike talk tonight, sharing stories and I'm sure some laughter too.
Much love to you Carol,
Dear Carol and Family
Words can not express the sorrow of hearing that Mike has passed. He has gone to a far better place without pain. So many loved ones lost to this terrible disease. We can only hope a cure is not far away for our grandchildren. May your family and friends be a great support to you at this time. Mike will never be forgotten. He will live on in all our memories of the good times.
Kory and Ian
The final transition is the most difficult one for all. There are few words of comfort, only to say that we are very sorry that a man with such spirit will longer be with us.
These times can be overwhelming and it is helpful that your daughter is with you. This seems like a vague offer because I do not know what may be specifically useful to you at this time; however, I am available if there is anything I can do. I will keep in touch.
Keep your memories warm and close to your heart.
Sheila and Curt
It was wonderful staying at your place, thank you. It felt both vibrant and peaceful there and I was struck by the pictures on Mike's bulletin board. Such a quirky sense of humor, clearly able to laugh at life's folly.
We have just read your entry in the blog with the news of Mike's death and are filled with great sadness and sorrow for you and Allison, Alex and Charlotte. In the too short time we knew Mike we too came to love his 'joie du vivre'. I was thinking today that just last summer he was matching me wheelbarrow for wheelbarrow moving compost at the community garden.
It was just about 3 weeks ago that we dropped over for coffee and Mike was up and serving us and so gracious and kind. We will really miss him and are hoping that you can find some comfort in knowing how much this island community cherishes for you both.
With great fondness, Norah and Peter
Thank you for sharing the thoughts of your friends as they described their relationship with Mike. I came to know him as a person this way. A lovely man indeed, a man of many dimensions.
I mourn Mike's passing, Carol. Wish we could all stay forever -- as advisors, perhaps. How this planet would whirl with the voices of our souls.
Bill and I, our thoughts are with you and the children,
With much love, J.
A note to Mike and Carol,
my hands have always been better use in the dirt than trying to put words on paper, but I need to let you know how much I have loved being able to cross that awesome red bridge into your garden of Peace ( inturrupted by Victors welcoming bark ), Love ( of each other,family,friends,and nature-despite the odd tomatoe eating deer ), and Happiness ( the infectious sunshine of your smiles ! )
Thinking of you, paint brush in hand…
I was away for 3 weeks in Calif, and when I returned yesterday, I heard the sad news. I will miss Mike, his wicked humour, his crossword puzzle mania, of which I know nothing… his love of books, his love of the garden and the Island. My heart goes out to you and Alison, who had so little time to adjust to his decline. Stay well, and if there is anything I can do, please let me know. hugs, Fred
Pam and I have just heard about Mike's death, and I wanted to pass on our most heartfelt sympathies. We are travelling in Mexico and have not been in touch, and so we were shocked to have this news. I want you to know that of all my senior colleagues Mike was the one to whom I most looked for kindred feeling, intellectual fellow-feeling, and humour. As a middle-aged fogey I looked to Mike's faux gruffness as a gesture of shared humanity. We shared a fondness for the unusual power of words that made me go to him when I needed a smile or a laugh. Mike hated the word "centre" applied to a building. He loved and collected the names of students who could not spell their own names, as he put it, like Micheal for Michael. He loved unwitting puns, like the sailor changing his tact. Once, when I was dean, he came to me to indicate he was in trouble because he had used bad language in the classroom and certain students had objected to it. In spite of my reassurances, he insisted that he deserved some form of recrimination because he had acted inappropriately out of his love of the drama of the moment. Nothing came of it in the end, because nothing could not come of it and because his students, who loved him, could not complain. I loved Mike's humanity, which well bespoke our faculty, and from what I have just now heard, Mike carried that humanity and all its dignity into the last moments of his life. I will miss him dearly, and I am so sorry for you and Alison that he had to go. It is moments like this that put me in touch with my own mortality, and when I survey my own life I worry about the lack of dignity next to that modelled by great people like Mike. In your middle age you begin to realize how little time there is in order to make good on life. Mike made good on life.
You have all our sympathies and best wishes - John (for Pam)
Friday, 2 March 2012