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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Findlay football star aided booster club

FINDLAY - John F. “Jack” Mathias, who played football at Findlay High School and later headed the school's booster club, died Sunday of a heart attack at Blanchard Valley Regional Heath Center. He was 79.

Mr. Mathias was president of the Findlay High School Booster Club for the 1970-71 school year. He worked to raise money for the school's football team for everything from weightlifting equipment to cameras used to film the games.

“During the few years he was involved he probably raised more money for the club than any time before that,” said Gregory Mathias, his son.

A former halfback for Findlay, Mr. Mathias played alongside Gene Fekete, who later was a running back for the Cleveland Browns. Mr. Mathias graduated in 1941.

He worked for 40 years as a linesman and later as a supervisor who oversaw maintenance of long-distance telephone lines for AT&T and Ohio Bell Telephone Co.

One early work assignment was in the Dayton area. He was transferred to northwest Ohio in the mid 1950s, said Joan Mathias, his wife.

The couple met while the two were living in Dayton, where Mrs. Mathias was single and studying to be a nurse. She remembered him from her days growing up in Findlay as a big, popular football player. But they never met until after they were in Dayton beginning their careers.

“I observed him from afar but he didn't know me from anybody,” she recalled. While in Dayton, friends urged him to call her. But she wasn't home when he tried twice.

“They told me John Mathias called,” she remembered. “This was unbelievable. My goodness.” He later told friends he would try only once more.

She was home when he made the third call. They started dating and eventually married in 1950.

While the couple was raising a family, Mr. Mathias was an assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 319, supervising boys, including his own three sons, as they worked to become Eagle Scouts.

“We needed a lot of encouragement to get all those badges,” Gregory Mathias said. “Dad did the pushing.”

Mr. Mathias was a Army veteran of World War II, serving in the Pacific Theater in the Amphibious Engineers 594th Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment.

His hobbies including hunting, fishing, searching for morel mushrooms, and making stained-glass ornaments.

He was a member of Knights of Columbus, the American Legion Ralph D. Cole Post, the National Rifle Association, and the Telephone Company Pioneers.

Surviving are his wife, Joan; sons, Matthew, James, and Gregory; daughters, Renee Leguire and Melissa Humphress; brother, Richard; 30 grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Kirkpatrick-Behnke Funeral Home. The body is in the funeral home.

The family requests tributes to the American Legion scholarship fund.

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