Neil Vance Remembers Joe
One time when we were traveling, Joe Matthews allowed me to stay in a hotel that he stayed in. I regret his permission. I normally stayed in the local religious house. We stayed in the Fairfax Hotel, which was a luxury hotel in Nairobi. I was luxuriating in the single room when I heard a knock knock on the door. It was Joe, wearing his lungi.
Joe said he couldn’t sleep because of worry about our organization. I said I slept fine for 30 minutes. He asked, “Did we make a mistake in incorporating the Institute of Cultural Affairs?” As a fundraiser, I am merely responded that no we didn’t make a mistake; but it makes things easier for a donor to give to a non-religious group.
He responded, “Do they realize that the ICA is a pirate ship? That we raised the ICA flag when we were in hostile ports? That our real ship is the Ecumenical Institute?”
I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night worrying about our organization. Joe said he slept fine.
Joe Mathews as a Singer
Joe Matthews and I had one thing in common: we should spend time in the Marshall Islands. I was there as a Peace Corps volunteer; and Joe was commissioned to Kwajalein in World War II where he served as a chaplain. He talks about the time the Marshallese were dug in. It was Christmas Eve and he heard some carols coming from the Marshellese. He returned the favor singing off key. (Parenthetically he had a terrible singing voice.)
People who encountered Joe Mathews often recall a brusqueness, but few knew that he also had quite a sense of humor.
One time in Washington, D.C. when Pat Moriarity and I put Joe in a hotel, we were dispatched for a bottle of vodka. We put the vodka in a separate container and put water in the vodka bottle. Joe really liked his vodka. He slurped down the water. I asked him, “How is the vodka?” He laughed. At himself.
Later in his hotel room, when I was sitting on the throne in his bathroom, I noticed a piece of paper being inserted under the door. Then Joe lit it. We all laughed when I rushed to get up and put out the fiery newspaper.
Another time when we were traveling together, I was closing up his suitcase and put a fat man shoe horn in his bag (a shoehorn that is long for fat people). Joe reported that the hotel called him and asked about a stolen shoe horn. He was kidding of course; but buddy, he had me for a second.
Joe had a good sense of humor.