Source: Sherman Publications

Fmr. Addison resident ready to join centenarian club

by CJ Carnacchio

April 24, 2013

A lot of significant things were created in 1913.

The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified giving the federal government the authority to impose and collect income taxes.

Stainless steel was invented by Harry Brearley, of Sheffield, England.

The Ford Motor Company introduced the world’s first moving assembly line.

Amazingly, all of those things are still with us today as is former Addison Township resident Johanna Matthews.

On Tuesday, April 30, Matthews, who now lives in Davisburg, will celebrate her 100th birthday.

While those around her are excited about this milestone, she has a more pragmatic attitude about the whole thing.

“There’s isn’t going to be a 105 or 110 or 120,” she said during a recent interview with Oxford Community Television (OCTV).

“I’m going to have a few (more birthdays), but I’m not going to be having very many. I’m going to die pretty soon. I really don’t mind because then I’m going to go to Heaven.”

Her matter-of-fact attitude and her strong faith comes as no surprise to the folks who know her and love her.

“Spunky” was the word her friend of 18 years, Rose Shall, a former Addison resident who now lives in Shelby Township, kept using to describe this soon-to-be centenarian.

“She’s very independent,” said Shall, who noted that when Matthews does accept help, she’s “always very appreciative and very sweet” about it.

“Generous” was the word used by friend Monique Maksym, a former neighbor and current Addison resident, who affectionately refers to Matthews as “Granny.”

“She would give to every charity – even if she just wrote them a check for $3,” she said. “Her mailbox would be stuffed full of envelopes from all these groups.”

Born in North Dakota, Matthews was the second oldest of 13 brothers and sisters.

Education-wise she never got past the eighth-grade.

She and her late husband, Russell, were married in 1944 and later moved to Addison where they built a 20-foot-by-20-foot house on Lakeville Rd., near Curtis Rd., using “government-rationed lumber.”

Once the couple had their piece of the American dream, Matthews loved to spend time in her gardens.

“I always had the prettiest flowers,” she told OCTV. “People from town always (came) out and (took) pictures because they were so pretty.”

Over the years, Matthews had a number of occupations including housekeeper, dental receptionist and K-mart employee.

A true survivor, Matthews overcame ovarian cancer in 1983 and kidney cancer in 1995. Even after having a kidney removed, she kept going strong.

After her husband passed away in 1962, Matthews became “very active” as a member and volunteer at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Orion, according to Shall.

“She loves being a Catholic,” Maksym said. “At the beginning of the month, when she got her Social Security check, the first thing she would do is make out a check to St. Joe’s.

“She used to point to her mouth and say, ‘You see this right here? I could have a tooth there, but I decided to give that $1,000 to St. Joe’s.’ She gave that money to the church’s building fund.”

“I had to do that because I wanted to please the Lord,” Matthews told OCTV.

Volunteering at the church became her purpose and its members her family as she had no relatives in the area.

“They took her under their wing,” said Shall, who works part-time as a custodian at the church.

Some folks at the church actually threw her a birthday party there on April 24.

Maksym recalled how Matthews loved to read stories to the small children at St. Joseph’s.

“The only thing that stopped her (from reading to the kids) was she finally (began losing her eyesight to) macular degeneration,” she said.

Before she lost her driver’s license, Matthews would also take communion to the residents of the Campbell Personal Care Home on Lakeville Rd. in Addison.

Just because she’s full of faith, doesn’t mean she lacks a whimsical side.

Shall’s favorite story is about the honeymoon trip Matthews and her late husband took to Florida.

“She loved to collect rocks, so whenever they’d stop, she’d put another rock in the trunk,” Shall said. “When they got back to North Dakota, the trunk was almost dragging on the ground.”

Happy birthday, Johanna Matthews.