Richard Michael Matthews was born November 9, 1938, the son of John Lodwick and Ara Barr Matthews. He grew up in Bowdon, Georgia, and graduated from Bowdon High School. He attended West Georgia College, now the University of West Georgia, before transferring to the University of Georgia where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in forestry and a Master’s Degree in wood technology.
Upon completion of his education, Mike began a thirty-year career with the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. He was a county agent in Taylor County, Webster County, and later in Randolph County.
He loved his work and he was well suited for it because he had a tremendous understanding of nature and the natural world. Being with him always presented an opportunity to learn, because as much as he was a meticulous student of the world around him, Mike was, above all, a teacher. He became a mentor to many young county agents and others in the farming community.
He married Sylvia Wessinger on June 2, 1960, and together they had two daughters, Michelle and Mitzi. Eventually, they made Shellman, Georgia, their home town and raised their family there. They worked tirelessly in support of the school, their church, and their community.
Shellman is a lovely place, and Mike’s influence certainly has made it even more so. The restoration of the historic train depot became the centerpiece for Shellman’s city park and the depot, as well as the park, is an ongoing community project that was accomplished with Mike’s full participation and guidance. Today a legacy sugar maple tree grows at the Randolph County courthouse because of Mike’s foresight and knowledge.
Hard work was Mike’s way, and he was rarely idle. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and he enjoyed his garden. As a consequence, the freezer was constantly full and the pantry held an abundance of beautifully preserved vegetables. Mike and Sylvia were always willing to share that bounty, often adding a bouquet of zinnias when they were in bloom.
Over the course of his lifetime, Mike received recognition and many honors for professional excellence. In terms of excellence, however, there really was no distinction between how he approached his career and how he lived each day. He knew no other effort except his very best and he left this earth an improved place because of it. His life exemplified the scriptural admonition regarding a good foundation for the future and grasping the life which is life indeed.
Mike is survived by his wife and faithful partner of 57 years, Sylvia; his daughters, Michelle Peeler, and her husband Hal of Williamson, Georgia, and Mitzi Gary and her husband Jack of Fayetteville, Georgia. He is also survived by his five beloved grandchildren; Matthew Peeler and his wife Katie of Griffin, Georgia, Mary Beth Peeler of Williamson, Allison Gary, Laura Gary and Caroline Gary, all of Fayetteville; his brother, Tim Matthews and his wife Beverly and their children, Logan Matthews and his wife Courtney and their son Mac, Landon Matthews and his wife Audrey, Tanner Matthews and Savannah Matthews all of Weston Georgia, a multitude of very special Barr and Wessinger cousins, as well as sisters by choice Carol Boyd and Tommie Stitcher.
Funeral services will be conducted on Saturday, April 22, 2017, at 11 a.m. in the Shellman United Methodist Church with Rev. Hall Grimmett and Paul Wigley officiating. Interment services will be conducted at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, 2017, in the Bowdon City Cemetery in Bowdon, Georgia.
The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. until funeral time on Saturday in the Shellman United Methodist Church.
In Lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Shellman United Methodist Church P. O. Box 85 Shellman, GA 39886, The Shellman Community Brotherhood or your favorite charity.
Tell them to do good and grow rich in noble actions, to be ready to give away and to share, and so acquire a treasure which will form a good foundation for the future. Thus they will grasp the life which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:18 NEV
Lunsford Funeral Home, Cuthbert, Georgia.