Reflections: Life of a longtime Cardington businessman

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

Occasionally I like to reflect on the life of a Cardington individual or family who remained here and through their actions, helped the village to grow. Isaac Bunker arrived here to found the village and remained as a businessman. In later years people who were born here, such as Ed Willits, Walter Long, Al Denton and others became business people contributing to the village’s growth.

Families who moved here such as the Maceykos, and Dr. Lowell Murphy are among others who came, stayed and contributed their talents and business acumen to the village.

This week I want to reflect on the life of Robert Gene Mathews, who passed away Feb. 7. Born in Cardington, his life was one of loyalty to his hometown. He was a natural born businessman with not only a knack on how to conduct business, but he was blessed with an engaging personality.

As a youngster, he had his own little shop, “The Hobby House” behind the home in which he lived with his parents. It’s not clear what he made in that little shop but was probably simple wood products. Bob mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, worked at Riverside Dairy and was active with the local Boy Scout troop where one of the members was Willis Long, who became his brother-in-law in 1955.

While in high school, Bob began working at the Snyder Sinclair Station on West Main Street, a job he loved because it involved meeting people and working with automobiles.

The U.S. Army “recruited” him in 1956 and he served his country while stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, serving two years active duty with four years in the Army Reserve and Ready Reserve.

Bob and Joanne, whom he married in 1955, returned to Cardington just in time for him to purchase his “dream,” the Snyder Station in July, 1959.

That same month he became a father to Mark, and five years later, son David was born.

Jim Ullom worked for Bob for 50 years, beginning when he was 15 years old. He recalled Bob giving many young boys their first jobs and helping youngsters change their bike tires, repair bikes, etc. at no charge.

Steve Breckner’s first job was with Mathews Sinclair.

“It was one of the best jobs I had. I worked part-time for 15 years, some of them at the station Bob had acquired in Marion from 1974-76.” He attained a Bowes Route Auto Parts Route which he ran for many years, gaining more friends and he sold real estate for Fricke Realty.

A community-minded man, Bob was active in the Cardington Rotary Club where he served as secretary for 30 years. He was nominated for membership on the Morrow County Hospital Board, where his peers elected him president and he served 30 years.

Bob was president of his senior high school class and editor of the school school year book. At the time of his death he was a member of the Cardington-Lincoln High School Alumni Executive Committee and was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010.

One of his classmates, Bill Henthorne, said “When I first moved here I was 17 and drove a Model A Ford to school. I got 50 cents worth of gas at the station and Bob cleaned my windshield. That’s how I learned how to clean the outside of windows — from Bob.”

Bob’s dedication to and love of Cardington will be felt for many years.

His children and grandchildren are part of a legacy that this community has benefited from and no one will forget. Rest in peace, Bob, we will miss you and that friendly “Hi.”

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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Reach us at [email protected]