John was born on December 1, 1946, to Dr. LeRoy Borum Matthews and Mary Shaw Townsend Matthews in Charleston, West Virginia. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Joy Wills Matthews, and their children, Elizabeth Matthews Lai (Mark) and Daniel Townsend Matthews (Sarah). He was blessed to have five grandchildren: John Matthews Lai, Georgiana Catherine Lai, James Shepherd Lai, Everett Anderson Matthews, and Simmons Wills Matthews.
John was preceded in death by his parents and his brother James William. In addition to his immediate family, he is survived by his sister Mary Shaw Sanderson (Julian), his sister-in-law Marjorie Rippetoe Matthews, and beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews.
John attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where he made many lifelong friends. He graduated from West Virginia University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed an internship in Internal Medicine and a General Surgery residency at Vanderbilt University, where he served as Chief Resident and received the Harwell Wilson Award for Excellence. After his training in Nashville, he completed a Cardiothoracic Surgery residency at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He practiced at the Cardiothoracic Surgery Center in Jackson, Tennessee, from 1983 to 2010, and was named Doctor of the Year in 2010 by employees at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.
John loved the Lord, his family, and his fellow man. Faith was the central fixture of his life. Early in their courtship, he told Joy that he considered ministry before choosing the path of medicine. While living in Jackson, he served as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church and later as an elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church. His life was characterized by generosity, service, and delighting in God’s creation. He enjoyed his horses, fishing trips, driving his tractor, and sitting on the front porch after a long day. He was a consummate storyteller and enjoyed regaling his family with tales of growing up in West Virginia and of his feats as a “Tumbling Tumbleer” gymnast at Charleston’s First Presbyterian Church, an important part of his family’s life.
In his professional career, John was known for his caring and devotion to his patients, and he was beloved by both patients and co-workers. After retirement, John served on the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association board and fulfilled his passion for helping others by traveling to Haiti on medical mission trips. He was an active supporter of the West Tennessee Boy Scouts, having attained Eagle Scout during his youth, and served with the local office of the American Heart Association.
John was diagnosed with a progressive neurologic condition in 2010. In 2020, he and Joy relocated to Franklin, Tennessee, where they have enjoyed the fellowship of Stephens Valley Church. John remained brave, strong, and courageous to the end, continuing to live a full life until his death. He passed away peacefully in his home on December 7th, 2022.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Stephens Valley Church and RIFA (Regional Inter-Faith Association, Jackson).
A celebration of life service will be held at 1:00 pm, Saturday, December 17, 2022 at Stephens Valley Church, 6000 Pasquo Road, Nashville, Tennessee 37221. A reception for family and friends will immediately follow at the church.