Randal Barnes Matson

Published 4:28 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

“God’s finger touched him, and he slept.”  — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Randy Matson lived a long and happy life. He brought joy to all who were fortunate to have met him. In his last year, even as his health and happiness ebbed, a caretaker commented that the world would be better if everyone was as appreciative of all things, big or small, as Randy. 

Randy was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, to Andrew Jackson Matson, a coal miner, and Brinda Carrell Matson, a homemaker. The youngest of eight children, Randy grew up in Pocahontas, Virginia, which was then home to a coal mine that provided fuel for residences across the U.S., and served the needs of the U.S. Navy.

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Despite the impoverished circumstances in which he was raised, Randy only retained fond memories of his childhood. When he was 19, Randy chose to leave his beloved home to work on a Chrysler production line in Detroit.

He eventually enlisted in the Navy and served as a medic during the Korean war. While he was in the Navy, he met the beautiful and spunky Mary Alice Johnson (who was a higher rank than he).

In that era, the Navy policy for women who wished to marry was to discharge them, so Mary Alice was honorably discharged when the couple decided to marry in 1951. Randy was honorably discharged at the end of 1952.

The young couple settled in Mary Alice’s hometown, Greensboro, North Carolina, where Randy spent most of his career at the U.S. Postal Service Bulk Mail Center.

He and Mary Alice had four children: Randy Jr., Ricky, Bill and Mary Helen. Randy and Mary Alice raised their children with love, and taught them the value of hard work.

Randy was heartbroken when Mary Alice died of cancer in 1985, and could not fathom ever again loving anyone so fiercely. Later that year, he was diagnosed with cancer and was treated at Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, where his loud and jovial conversations with friends and staff attracted the attention of a woman recuperating from surgery in a nearby room, Rowena Horne. Rowena, who was also recently widowed, stopped by Randy’s room, chatted, invited him to visit her and left him her church calling card.

Randy and Rowena became fast friends and — after requesting Rowena’s hand in marriage from her elderly mother, and seeking approval from his adult children — Randy proposed to Rowena.

After they married, they lived at Randy’s home in Greensboro until he retired. Then, they moved to Rowena’s home, “Breezy Hill,” in Polk County, where Randy felt he had “come home” to scenic views of the mountains every day from the lovely land on which Breezy Hill was located.

Randy lived there until 2017, when both he and Rowena became too frail to live on their own. Their last home together was at Holly Springs Senior Citizens Retirement Home, where Rowena passed quietly in August 2017.

Randy is survived by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family is eternally grateful that Holly Springs was located so close to his son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Brenda Matson, whose frequent visits enhanced his quality of life. We are also blessed that he was attended by his extraordinary primary caregiver, Vikki Mollette, who he adored; and by the loving staff at Holly Springs, who treat their patients as family members.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Randy’s memory to Holly Springs Senior Citizens Retirement Home, 1881 Big Island Road, Rutherfordton, NC 28139.

There will be a private, family graveside service in Greensboro, where Randy will be laid to rest beside his first wife, Mary Alice.

Hanes Lineberry Sedgefield Chapel is assisting the Matson family.

Online condolences may be made at www.haneslineberryfuneralhomes.com.