Byron J. Matthews, former Mayor of Newburyport, passed away peacefully on March 25, 2023 in Newburyport. He enjoyed a remarkable and productive 94 year life as a leader in Newburyport, the North Shore and the Merrimack Valley.
Born at Anna Jacques Hospital on August 31, 1928, he was the son of John A. and Rose (Talas) Matthews. One of three brothers, he is survived by Nicholas J. Matthews of Silver Spring, MD and predeceased by Anthony J. Matthews of Newburyport.
Married to Helen for 69 years, they raised two sons, John and Peter, at their home in the Belleville neighborhood.
Byron graduated from Newburyport High School in 1946 and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
He later earned a degree in accounting from Bentley College.
While running and expanding the family business, Matthews Market on Maple Street, Byron was encouraged by customers and friends to become involved in local government. After serving three terms on the City Council, he was elected Mayor of Newburyport and served five consecutive terms.
He embarked on an aggressive program to rejuvenate and preserve his beloved historic home town. Projects included the restoration of downtown Newburyport including the waterfront boardwalk and the Custom House, building the industrial park, the Nock Middle School, the new reservoir, expansion of municipal infrastructure and the Central and West End Fire Stations. He worked with State and Federal officials to bring millions of dollars to fund these projects.
After 10 years as Mayor he became the Director of the newly formed North Shore Economic Council and shortly after that was recruited by Governor Edward King to serve in the Cabinet as Secretary of Communities and Development. This was followed by several years in the private sector where he developed new residential communities in Florida, New York and New England.
He was a parishioner at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, where his father and uncle were founders, and he served on the Parish Council for 10 years. After the church suffered a devastating fire, he served on the Building Committee for a new church that opened in 1983. The building was designed by his longtime friend and business associate, the late Jonathan Woodman AIA.
Byron served as Chairman of the Newburyport Cooperative Bank and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the Board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.
He was a Managing Partner of The Racquet Club of Newburyport.
Byron’s civic involvement continued throughout his life. He was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Northern Essex Community College and served as Chairman from 1997 through 2006, then later as a member of the College Foundation. He served as a member of the Building Committee of the Newburyport Public Library when it was renovated and expanded and a term on the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.
In 2011, in recognition of his contributions to the City of Newburyport, a granite monument was dedicated on “Byron’s Court” adjacent to the Inn Street pedestrian mall. It was a grand celebration, speakers included former Governor Michael Dukakis and former Congressman Michael Harrington.
In more recent years a great deal of his efforts were directed towards Anna Jaques Hospital where he has served as a member of Seacoast Regional Health Systems, Chairman of the Anna Jaques Community Health Foundation, the Building Committee and directed the Annual Golf Tournament for over 30 years. In 2022, Byron and Helen were honored to have the Main Entrance of Anna Jaques Hospital dedicated in their names recognizing years of devoted service to the continued success and expansion of the hospital.
He is survived by his wife, Helen (Halkiotis); his sons - John Matthews and his wife Christina Welch Matthews and Peter B. Matthews and his wife Teri Matthews; granddaughters – Carolyn Emerson and her husband Daniel Emerson, Laura Matthews and her husband Michael Manocchio, Ashley Leone and her husband Daniel Leone, and Olivia Matthews; two great grandsons - John Emerson and Peter Parker Emerson, a sister-in-law Penny Halkiotis and many nieces and nephews.
Byron was a son of Newburyport, growing up through the Great Depression and the Second World War and then the father of the City laying the foundation of the vibrant and successful place that it is today.
The funeral service will be private. A memorial celebration is planned for later this year. The Twomey, LeBlanc, & Conte Funeral Home 193 High St. Newburyport, MA 01950 is assisting Mr. Matthews family with his arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church or to Anna Jaques Hospital.
To offer online condolences please visit www.tlcfuneralhome.com
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