This past Memorial Day, a founding member of The Ski Club of New Jersey, and world war two Veteran, Robert Matthews, 98, was honored as the Wyckoff Township’s Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal.
From an interview Mathews gave to northjersey.com:
” ‘I was on the swim team in high school, and they told me I had to swim to be in the Navy. Swim. So I did,” Matthews said. “The man in charge asked my name when I swam back and said: You’re in charge of swimming.”
Matthews was drafted in 1943 and discharged in January 1946 at the rank of chief radioman. He received the Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic Service Medal with five Campaign Stars, European Theater Medal with one star, the Victory in Japan Medal, and the State of New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal…
Matthews remembers that his first recruit could swim, the second somewhat, and the third not at all.
“I asked the man how far they had to swim to pass, and he said 10 feet, so I got this guy to swim 10 feet, and he passed,” Matthews said. “Every guy learned to swim 10 feet.”
The Paterson native grew up in Rochelle Park, where his father was head of the police and fire departments. He attended Hackensack High School, where his interests were split between skiing and the swim team. He was also active in Boy Scouts, which led to a tour as a Sea Scout sailing a 75-foot vessel in the Hackensack River as well as along the New York and New Jersey coasts.’ “
Photo Credit: Marsha Stoltz
After he graduated in 1938, Matthews became one of the founding members of the Ski Club of New Jersey at the Hackensack Y. The group reached 120 members and had moved its meetings to Howland Avenue in River Edge by the time the draft caught up with them in July 1943.
Fellow club member, and longtime friend as well as a veteran who also served in the Navy, Daniel M. Zavisza, CAPT, USNR-retired, sent a request to the Navy for a letter of appreciation for Service in World War II.
In his letter to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, Zavisza noted Mathews’ service number, his age, his dates of enlistment and discharge, and the position he served as well as a brief history of Mathews’ service, as follows:
“Robert Mathews was a radioman petty officer on an oiler, USS Merrimack (AO-37) in the Mediterranean supporting the American invasion of North Africa. The ship served in the western Pacific until, we believe, the end of the War.
The Merrimack arrived in Western Pacific in December 1944 and supported action at Formosa, the Philippines., Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Formosa. The Merrimack alternated supplying fuel aircraft carriers and ships involved in the different landings.”
In response to Zavisza’s request, the Office of the Secretary of the Navy sent a letter posted here.
The day was a perfect, sunny blue sky day, and the parade well attended by citizens appreciating their freedoms and the contributions of veterans everywhere.