Dick Matthews, unofficial mayor of Inverness, glass tradesman, perpetual host and father of seven, passed away last week. He was 76.
“He was a hard workin’ fella that stressed politeness and giving,” said Dick’s brother, John “Jack” Matthews. “He liked hunting, fishing, partying and athletics—and he was exceptionally good at all of those.”
Dick was one of four sons born and raised in Riverhead, Long Island. Dick’s father, Walter Irons, worked for the Radio Company of America as an engineer and Morse code specialist in New York. He was transferred to the RCA station in Point Reyes in 1946. Walter and his wife, Miriam, moved to Inverness with their four boys, twins Walter and George, Dick and Jack. They eventually settled at Rancho Mateo, a ten-acre stretch of hay fields above Chicken Ranch Beach. Walter and his sons built the house over the next couple of years. The Matthews family still resides there.
When they started at Tomales High School, Dick and his brothers were over-dressed. “My mother sent my brothers to school in sport coats and ties,” Jack said. “You can imagine what kind of reception they had from the farmers.”
But the boys soon fit in, and took to duck hunting before and after school.
“They would leave Inverness in a boat, hunt duck as they rowed across the bay, then catch the bus on the Marshall side,” Jack said. “They picked up their shotguns from the principal’s office at the end of the day, got back on the bus, and hunted again as they rowed back to Inverness.”
Dick set a long jump record for the North Coast League in the 1970s—his 21-and-half-a-foot jump still stands at Tomales High. Dick played football and did track and field, and was nicknamed “Workhorse Matthews” at College of Marin.
“Sometimes he practiced with a black croquet ball painted like a shot put,” Jack said. “It discouraged his competitors.”
Dick married Marilyn Grove in 1956. They lived in Mill Valley, then Novato, and had five sons and two daughters, Rick, Tom, David, Jim, Glen, Jeanne and Mindy. The couple eventually divorced, and Dick moved back to Inverness in 1989 to take care of his mother.
Dick worked briefly for Southern Pacific Railroad before beginning a career in glass. He started at San Rafael Glass in 1960, and founded his own company, Novato Glass Incorporated, in 1968. His sons, Tom and Rick Matthews, manage the business today.
“He was probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the glass business,” said Dick’s son, David. Dick was still working five and six days a week when he passed away.
Vladimir’s was the center of Dick’s social life. “He and all the contractors stopped there every night after work,” Tom said.
Darby Johnson, Dick’s niece, said Dick sometimes invited the entire bar to his home. Some of the people Dick met at Vladimir’s would send postcards expressing their appreciation for the stranger who had invited them into his home.
“People from all over ended up becoming lifelong friends, that’s why they called him the mayor,” Jack said. “He really enjoyed entertaining, and always tried to make the out-of-town strangers feel welcome.”
Dick’s catch phrase was Honest Injun. “He could be boisterous, and sarcastic,” said Rick Michetti, a longtime friend. “He’d say what he thought and tried be true to everybody. He would always start a story out by saying, ‘Honest Injun,’ and the rest of us would stand up and clap.”
As a host, Dick was known for his extravagant wardrobe.
“He was notorious for wearing an antique smoking jacket that his father got overseas during the war,” Darby said. “He was the only one who would come out in costumes. He wore a white belt and white shoes, but by the end of the party he might have been in cut-off shorts.”
The biggest events at the Matthews house were Fourth of July and Easter. He hosted a money egg hunt for adults with some gems holding over $150, and a traditional egg hunt for kids on the groomed acres of Rancho Mateo.
Much of Dick’s energy went into working on the house, doing yard work, and trimming trees so that the view of Tomales Bay was always clear. “It looked like park up there,” Jack said.
Dick met Tottie Knobloc at Vladimir’s on his birthday in 2001. Tottie purged Dick of his bachelorism. “He could be kind of a scruffy guy,” Rick said. “He had holes in his jeans and sometimes the place was kind of a mess, but when he met Tottie, that all changed.”
Tottie also encouraged Dick to travel—they flew to Washington D.C., then took road trips across the country to Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Idaho, and visited Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone.
“He thought it was refreshing to see the wholesomeness out there,” Jack said. “He really liked Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, it brought him back to what this area was 40 years ago.”
Full of energy, Dick was could do one-armed pushups at age 75. “He was certainly my best friend,” Jack said. “We had meetings every night of the week for the last 25 years. We didn’t miss any socializing.”
Dick is survived by his five sons and two daughters, eight grandkids, and his love for the past eight years, Tottie Knoblock of Inverness. A celebratory service will be held Saturday, March 6 at noon at St. Vincent’s Church in Petaluma, with a reception following at the Herzog Hall on the Petaluma fairgrounds. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to St. Jude’s Children’s