Gary R. Matson

It’s with joy in my heart and tears in my eyes as I write that Dad went to heaven yesterday afternoon. 

He fought pancreatic cancer for over a year. In that 14 months, he journeyed back to believing Jesus was the one true God. Dad peacefully went to heaven, only to wake for the world’s largest birthday party: Christmas in heaven!  

We will miss Dad everyday. He was physically and competitively our Superman, and our biggest life cheerleader. 

Only God could have directed Dad’s life. His family emigrated from Finland. They worked a farm in the Upper Peninsula (UP), Michigan. The farm boy wanted to go to college, and the only way to do it was to have it paid for by service in the US military. He is one of the few to get an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). His first flight ever was to start school at the USAFA in Colorado Springs. He flew for many years after that day, 9 years with the Air Force and 33 years with Southwest Airlines. He was based in Houston, Texas (a climate change from the UP and CO), but Houston provided our family with abundant life! 

We love you, Dad! His memorial service will be at the beginning of January at Second Baptist Church, North (We are confirming details), and his funeral will be at The United States Air Force Academy in March. Of course, Dad wants the family to hit the slopes after his gun salute and taps! 

In lieu of flowers he wants donations to be made to his favorite pastime and charity, The Marquette Tennis Association, 131 East College, Marquette, MI 49855 

Janel Matson Kates, Gary’s Daughter  |  December 2019




Photographs and Memories


I’ve known Gary since 1971 when we were in Invaders together Basic Cadet Summer. Gary went to General Motors Institute Leadership school at the same time I was in Prep School, so we are both the same age. He was in 36th Sq as a Doolie, and I was right next store to him in 33rd Sq. He went on to graduate in 38th Sq and I went to Bull Six. We have been good friends ever since that time, and I know his wife Patty and her family very well also, as his wife and sister and I went to high school together. 

This picture was taken two weeks ago (about 6 Dec 2019) when I had my last great visit with him this side of heaven. Even then, you could tell he was in quite a bit of pain, but all that is gone now.

Gary was the best...full of integrity and grit, always wanting to stretch a nickel, but generous to many people. His laugh and love will be with me forever. Enjoy the streets of gold my friend.

– Bill Murray

He was a great guy and I recall a UPer from Michigan. Sad news. Will miss him at the reunion.

– Bill Buchta

Gary was a great guy. A life well-lived. Great memories of him at USAFA. He'll be missed.

– Steve Duresky

A blessed life, a wonderful classmate, a great friend to all.

– Kurt Bock

Denny Mellen and I had the pleasure of spending some time with Gary and Patty in Michigan this summer. In fact, Gary led us all on a 2-mile hike up a steep lookout trail while we struggled to keep up with him. He was a real fighter to the end, and never lost his sense of humor. He and Patty were inseparable. Please pray for the family. He will be missed greatly. 

This is a video we took at their Michigan cabin! (Below)

Bob Walden