Sunday, July 23, 2023 | 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Howell Funeral Home Chapel | 10220 Guilford Road| Jessup, MD 20794
Monday, July 24, 2023 | Wake: 10:00 a.m. | Service: 11:00 a.m.
St. John Baptist Church| 9055 Tamar Drive| Columbia, MD 21045
Obituary for Johnny L. Mathews
Johnny Lee Mathews, 85, loving husband, devoted father, dedicated member of Saint John Baptist Church in Columbia, Maryland and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, peacefully passed away on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.
Johnny was born in Columbus, Ohio on March 2, 1938 to Rosie Mathews (née Brown) and John Wesley Mathews. When Johnny was eight years old his father was killed in WWII. With no template to follow, he was invaluable to his mother as a father figure to his younger siblings Neil, Mike, and Brenda.
Johnny was educated in Columbus Public Schools and graduated from Central High School in 1955. He attended Ohio State University and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. While at Ohio State he met schoolmate Fredericka Clay to whom he was married for nineteen years. The couple welcomed two children, their daughter, Mendel and son, Jon. Mendel fondly recalls that her dad eagerly embraced his role as a father and provided many opportunities and life experiences like trips to the Black Rodeo and county fairs and epic vacations to the World’s Fair Expo ‘67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics, both in Montreal, Canada.
After a brief stint as a hospital staffer in Columbus, Johnny started working for the local Social Security Administration office. Delivering impressive results earned him a promotion to the Detroit, Michigan office and just a year later to SSA headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland. He chose to settle his family in the newly established model city of Columbia, Maryland and embraced its ideals of “Basic Human Values” and “Quality of Life.”
Throughout his life Johnny was very involved in the Columbia community. Over five decades, he held various roles as a member of St. John Baptist Church including singing in several choirs, serving on the usher board, and participating as a youth mentor. He also served as Treasurer for the church's Finance & Operations Ministry. Johnny has been a dedicated member of the Columbia chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi where he was honored to serve as the 4th Polemarch from 1977 - 1978. He rarely missed a meeting, an event, or an opportunity to volunteer and he had planned to celebrate his 66th year as a Kappa at this year’s annual Conclave which took place last week.
While they both were working for the Social Security Administration Johnny met Odessa Woods. They married in 1988 and began their adventures together. From those earlier days and through retirement from SSA, Johnny and Odessa traveled across the United States and around the globe to countless destinations including Japan, China, Germany, South Africa, Ghana, Dubai, Brazil, and more. Sharing a commitment to social justice and the democratic process they attended inaugural events, Marches on Washington and prided themselves for being early voters for every election.
In addition to their special relationships with their children and other relatives, the two adopted each other's friends from Kappa Alpha Psi, Delta Sigma Theta, St. John Baptist Church, Howard University, African and American Women’s Association, SSA, and more. These friendships enriched their lives socially, intellectually, and culturally and helped create lifelong memories.
Johnny will be especially remembered for his winning smile and gregarious nature. He was always ready to help others, so much so that he gained a reputation as a ‘rent-a-husband’ for many of he and Odessa’s friends when in need of a handyman. Ever the gentleman, he would walk on the outside near the curb, pull out your chair at the dinner table, and hop out of the car to pump gas. He was an avid consumer of news and historical facts and could pop into any conversation with a bit of trivia or a fun fact on just about any topic. He enjoyed watching sports - especially his Ohio State Buckeyes - and often announced controversial predictions on the outcomes of games just to stir stuff up. He loved listening to the Blues and traditional Gospel music and had a secret desire to be one of Gladys Knight’s Pips - of course, that might have been because of his crush on Gladys. Johnny liked to fish and in spite of Odessa’s objections would proudly bring home his catch of the day to clean and cook all over their kitchen.
Johnny is preceded in death by his parents: John and Rosie Mathews and his sister Brenda Turner. His memory will be cherished by his wife: Odessa, aunt: Ruth Thompson, daughter: Mendel Shipmon (Rodgers), son: Jon Mathews, Stepdaughter: Lydia Woods, Brothers: Mike Moon and Glen O’Neil Mathews, Grandchildren: Everett, Tiffany, Rodgers Jr., Melodye, Tabitha, Elliott, Charity, and Gregory Shipmon, Amirah Mathews, Seneca Koroma, and Emmett “Avery” Woods-Gresham and Great-Grandchildren: Jayce, Jordyn, Amarii and a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins.
While we will miss him dearly, the family finds comfort in knowing Johnny is now cradled at rest in the arms of Our Lord.