December 19, 1924 - November 14, 2020
On Saturday, November 14, 2020, our Mighty Oak went down. If you asked BJ his age, you would find yourself accepting an invitation to his 100th birthday party in December of 2024. When you greeted him with a "How are you doing?" He always came back with the prompt reply "As I am told." Yes, he was a character, all right. He was the patriarch of a huge and loving extended family, and was truly the "real deal."
Born near Calico Rock, AR, to Joe and Willie Matthews, he was the oldest of five children. He learned to be the boss at a very early age.
He served in the Remount Division of the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army in WWll, immediately after high school graduation. The war ended after he trained 9000 mules and horses for the United States. He then found and married his "lady of all ladies," Geneva Gilliland, on Halloween Day of 1948. He lovingly appointed her, "Boss Lady." They moved from Arkansas to Wenatchee, WA, in 1952, with their two toddlers, Irene and Loraine, in tow. They settled in the Squilchuck area and added dogs, cats, a bird, chickens, cows, pigs, and two more girls, Melonye and Paulette, to the mix.
Moving to Wenatchee Heights, in 1958, the new settlement blossomed with the comforts of a family home. He and Boss Lady continued with the dogs, cats, etc., adding more cows and horses. Finally, they expanded to include cherry and apple orchards. He needed a new tractor and made such a good deal for himself that Valley Tractor management said, "Come work for us as we would rather have you making those kinds of deals in OUR favor." Ten years later, he became a full-time rancher, which had always been his dream.
The combination of farmer and businessman filled his cowboy hat to the brim, as he literally was still wheeling and dealing on the day he died.
BJ left his ranch and moved to town a couple years ago, so he could more easily obtain the care he needed, as his cowboy weathered body slowed down. He often quipped, "This is just a step closer", as he pointed to the neighboring cemetery.
He was a longtime member of Beehive Grange, Washington Cattlemen's Association, First United Methodist Church, Ramblin' Recs, and Masonic Lodge.
Five years ago he hosted a family reunion at his ranch. With 75 family members in attendance, our patriarch was in his reining glory. With a personality larger than life, he embraced you, his dear friends. He took tremendous pleasure in "you seeing him" for burgers and fries, and maybe even discussing the next "great deal for him."
He was welcomed into heaven by daughters: Irene (Duane) Smith and Melonye (Don) Shurtz; granddaughter, Chelsey Firor; Boss Lady; brother, Steve Matthews; and sister, Mauzel Beal. Survivors include daughters: Loraine (Bob) Orach and Polly (Jerry) Firor; eight grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; sister, Betty Jane Perryman; brother, Ed Matthews; and a whole truck load of tightly knit nieces and nephews and their families.
Thanks to all of you who adopted our papa as yours. Rest assured he loved each of you.
Our fallen oak leaves a big gap in our forest of knowledge, yet his legacy flourishes through us all. We look forward to when we can unmask and gather to share stories, laugh, hug, and cry.
A private Family Service will be held. In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite charity in his name or support your local businesses...and honor BJ by enjoying a hamburger and fries.
You are invited to view BJ's online tribute and to share a memory or condolence at https://www.jonesjonesbetts.com. Arrangements are being handled by Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA.