- [S74] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume IV, 1987-1999, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 3 Dec 1996.
Fred Benton Cate obituary
- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 20 Mar 2005.
JoAnne Matthews Gibson obituary
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 19 May 2008.
County says goodbye to long-time worker Shirley Matthews
SEVIERVILLE - Shirley Matthews has been a presence in Sevier County politics, though mostly behind the scenes, for more than three decades. Thursday she ended that career, though not her connections with friends in the courthouse, with graciousness on what she called a "bittersweet day.
"It's been a wonderful 33 years and those years passed more quickly than I thought they could," she told a crowd that packed the third-floor meeting room at the courthouse to wish her well. "We've had a lot of great times and made a lot of friends."
For the last 30 years, Matthews has served as assistant to County Mayor Larry Waters and called the decision to retire "a tough one." Waters praised Matthews as he presented her with a proclamation declaring May 15, 2008, Shirley Matthews Day in Sevier County.
"I can't think of any other person who has had as much of an impact on more people in this county than Shirley Matthews," Waters said. "She has been just terrific to work with. I can't say enough words to thank her for everything she's done for me and for this county."
Virtually every office in the courthouse sat empty for at least an hour Thursday as folks who have worked closely with Matthews turned out to express appreciation to Matthews at a luncheon and reception in her honor. Sue Smith, who has worked in the mayor's office alongside Matthews for 24 years, said the absence of her co-worker's experience will be felt hard over the coming days.
"She's taught me everything I know," Smith said. "It's going to leave a big void with her leaving. She just seems like the heart of the office. She's not only a wonderful co-worker, but she's also become one of my best friends."
Matthews was born into politics, catching a love for the stuff from her father, who served 12 years as an alderman for the city of Sevierville.
"I've always loved politics," she said. "I kind of like to and get to see it from behind the scenes."
That love led her to take a job with former Tax Assessor Fred Pierce for three years before she was introduced to then-candidate for county mayor Waters by Pless Newman, a friend and one of Sevier County's political movers for decades.
"I just asked Larry, 'If you get elected, you think maybe you could find me a job?'" Matthews said. "I want to thank Larry for all these years I've gotten to work with him. It's been a wonderful journey and I thank God for that."
Waters assured Matthews he's appreciated her as much or more than she's appreciated him. Her departure, he said, will be a great loss for his department and the county.
"You're not going to miss us half as much as we're going to miss you," Waters said. "Shirley always went the extra mile to help everyone who needed help. She's reached the goalline we're all working for; she's made it to retirement and I congratulate her and wish her the best."
For the next-to-impossible feat of filling Matthews' shoes, Waters has again pilfered from another courthouse office, hiring Debbie Connatser away from Register of Deeds Sherry Robertson-Huskey.
With her seat filled, Matthews will join her husband J.B., himself a force in local politics, in travel and a little bit of relaxation over the coming weeks.
"I'm very proud of her," J.B. Matthews said. "I'm happy for her today, but I don't know if she is or not. She's really going to miss her job and all these people. I told her we'll just take it as it comes and we'll be fine."
After years of helping things in Sevier County keep moving from behind the scenes, Matthews had the last word on three decades of county service Thursday.
"I love all of you and I'm going to miss you all," Matthews said to a standing ovation from her friends and co-workers. "Someday maybe I'll visit you back here and we'll talk about all our memories."