Joliet’s Matthews celebrates his 101st birthday
By Frank Vaisvilas Correspondent September 23, 2013 3:58PM
Edward Matthews | Frank Vaisvilas~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:13AM
JOLIET — For a man more than a century old, Edward Matthews of Joliet is still not missing a beat.
So full of life, he still likes to impress people by reciting his ABC’s backward and he still likes to make people laugh with his arsenal of jokes.
One joke is something like, “I was riding across the bridge, but Yet was walking.” Yet is the name of his dog.
“He still has his mind,” said Matthews’ daughter, Sina Matthews, 63, who’s one of 10 children.
Matthews, who’s affectionately called Red by friends, celebrated his 101st birthday with friends and family in Joliet on Sunday.
And while Matthews said he’s outlived many of his friends, he still has plenty of family members to keep him company spanning five generations.
From his 10 children, he has 42 grandchildren, 106 great grandchildren and 44 great, great grandchildren. Some of the younger ones have to remind him what their name is, at times.
“I can’t see my life without him,” Sina said. “We’ve always been close with him.”
Matthews moved to Joliet in 1947 already with six children.
Before that, he worked as a sharecropper picking cotton in Mississippi, he said. Sharecropping was a labor system used in the South in which tenant farmers shared some of the crop they harvested in exchange for food and a place to live.
“If I made 10 bales (of cotton), I would only get five and have to pay with the rest,” Matthews said. “[But] it wasn’t really hard work.”
And in Joliet, Matthews’ children said he worked hard to provide a good life for them often holding several jobs at once, such as for Caterpillar, Blue Bird Bus Company and Argo Starch.
“He always had two or three jobs,” said Matthews’ daughter, Rosette Chambers
While not working, Matthews would laboriously tend to his garden in which he took immense pride.
“We had a good life,” Sina said. “We ate good from the garden. ... Those were the best days.”
These days, Matthews gets around using his walker and he no longer tends to a garden.
He lives at home with his wife, Billie Matthews, whom he married in 1991 after the mother of his children, Bernice, passed away.
One key is having good genes. Matthews’ mother lived to be 103 years old.
Another key is eating healthy as Matthews did from his garden. Matthews said he also always kept busy, has a positive attitude and praises God everyday.