If you’ve lived around Aberdeen for a while, you’re probably a buddy of Earl Matthews.
All it took was passing within earshot of him. “Hiya, Buddy! How you doin’? Stayin’ outta trouble?” The conversations weren’t indepth and often ended at “Hiya, Buddy,” but you could always count on that much.
Matthews died Monday in his sleep at the age 70, leaving a lot of buddies behind.
He was one of the first developmentally disabled people to live on his own in this community, said his sister Barbara M. Henderson, recalling a long feature story in The Daily World from years ago.
He needed help from his family and a caregiver, but he was still on his own when he died, Henderson said, living at the Broadway Manor in Aberdeen. In later years, he needed a scooter to get around, but he still went to the Shoppes at Riverside Mall every day and loudly greeted everyone who passed.
Henderson said her brother was born in Mississippi and medical authorities told her mother that he should be placed in an institution, but their mother wouldn’t hear of it. He wasn’t expected to walk, but he did, she said. Riding a bike was supposed to be out, but he learned how to do that, too. “He absolutely proved them wrong,” Henderson said.
Over the years he battled many health issues and Henderson said it’s not clear what caused his death.
Matthews’ family moved to Aberdeen when he was a baby. They moved away, but returned and Matthews grew up here and spent his adult life here.
He was the only boy in a family that included five sisters. Henderson said he called them every day.
Sometimes his patter to passers-by included the question, “Do you like me?”
“I’d say, ‘Earl, you’re not supposed to ask people if they like you.’ But he did. He was a character. And he could make you laugh. I consider it an honor to be his sister,” Henderson said. “… You couldn’t go anywhere that there wasn’t somebody who knew Earl.”
At presstime, funeral arrangements had not yet been made.