Donald Reed Mathewson’s Radio, Newspaper and Real Estate Legacy in Delaware
The war veteran, radio personality and civic leader wore dozens of other hats throughout his lifetime of service to our country and state.
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In this year of our victory, absolute and final, over German fascism and Japanese militarism; in this time of peace so long awaited, which we are determined with all the United Nations to make permanent; on this day of our abundance, strength, and achievement; let us give thanks to Almighty Providence for these exceeding blessings.”
These were the opening lines of President Harry S. Truman’s 1945 Thanksgiving Day proclamation, spoken inside London’s Royal Albert Hall and broadcast via radio around the globe.
Only it wasn’t Truman who spoke them. It was an American Army private fresh from battle whose voice would become familiar to many in the First State: Donald Reed Mathewson.
Although the Scots-Irish Mathewson clan had lived in Delaware since 1802, and two generations had lived on Brecks Lane, near the old powder mills, Mathewson was born in Wausaukee, Wis., in 1922—arriving just before electricity. “I was born in the dark, literally,” he likes to quip. Alfred Mathewson, his dad, had moved the family to the Badger State to further work in DuPont’s burgeoning dynamite business—which Alfred had played a signal role in developing, building on his experience clearing land for agricultural development.
Mathewson’s mother, Martha, was a special but too-brief influence on his life. A devout Presbyterian, a graduate of Goldey College (later an instructor for the War Department in the new art of touch-typing) and a woman of great personal charm, Martha inspired her son with a love of the arts. She made regular jaunts to the first-run movie theater to keep up with that startling medium, the young Mathewson bundled in the backseat of their heater-less car during ruthless Wisconsin winters.
“My mother also enjoyed the prestige that came with her husband’s being a mover and shaker in Wausaukee,” Mathewson says. Among the family’s estimable friends were the Wyeths. Mathewson tells of finding himself “in the studio of N.C. Wyeth, at the time the foremost illustrator in the nation. My guide was his son Andrew.” Yes, that Andrew Wyeth.
Martha died from cardiac issues when Mathewson was only 11, a loss he and his father felt keenly throughout their lives. With work often whisking him from home, Alfred thought it best to send his son to a boarding school, the Mission House Academy, where the young man would nurture a love of the stage by performing in school productions. From there he enrolled at Lakeland College, majoring in English and minoring in theater.