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Clarence John Matthiessen
December 19, 1893 – August 8, 1983
Services for Clarence John Matthiessen, 89, were held Aug. 11 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Monticello. Burial followed in Oakwood Cemetery.
Mr. Matthiessen, a lifelong resident of the Monticello area, died Monday evening, August 8, at St. Luke’s Methodist Hospital in Cedar Rapids. He had been in declining health for some months. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism.
Mr. Matthiessen was born in Wayne Township, Jones County, on Dec. 19, 1893, the third son of Jacob and Anna Matthiessen. In his youth, he worked for the railroad as a cook and hosteler[, and farmed with his father in Wayne Township and in Sand Springs, where the family moved in the late 1890s. He attended school in Sand Springs.
In the early years of the century, Mr. Matthiessen became one of the first skilled mechanics and drivers in the county and was often called upon by Monticello residents to drive their cars for them on longer trips. He was in the automobile business from its infancy, and was widely regarded as the finist diagnostician and mechanic in eastern, Iowa.
Clarence Matthiessen served on the Monticello Fire Department for about 40 years and was its chief for 20 of those years. During his term as chief, Monticello bought its first motor driven fire engine.
Clarence married Alta Farnham, a school teacher a principal, in 1925. They had two children, James, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a Monticello lawyer; and Marilee, wife of Dick Bonwell of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Clarence and Alta made their home in Monticello all their married life.
Mr. Matthiessen served on the Jones County Fair Board as a member and its President for 50 years. As a board member, he fought to maintain the idea of free grandstand entertainment. In 1953, he was elected to the Iowa State Fair Board and served on that body for 23 years. He was President of the Iowa State Fair in 1972-73, an in 1974 was named “Fairman of the Year” by the Iowa Fair Association.
He served as mayor in Monticello for two terms, from 1947 to 1950. He was a 50 year member of the Burns Masonic Lodge in Monticello, and had been a member of El Kahir Shrine temple since 1946. He was also a member of the Congregational Church, the Odd Fellows Lodge, for which he served as the local chapter’s last Noble Grand, The Knights of Pythias, and the Monticello Lions Club. From 1919 to the mid 1950s, he dealt in Chevrolet and Oldsmobile cars, in addition to several other lines including Overland and Packard. He had the first John Deere dealership in Jones County. At the time he left the Chevrolet business, he had been a dealer longer than anyone in Iowa. His last act before surrendering the charter of the local Odd Fellows Lodge was set aside funds from the lodge for college scholarships for the local young people.
He was a lifelong Republican and enjoyed working on the state and local level on Republican committees.
In the early 1940s when the Monticello High School was trying to get up enough money to buy new uniforms for its band, he personally made up the difference between the cost of the uniforms and the amount collected by the band during its fund drive.
During WWII, he served as the Jones County director for the scrap iron drives which produced many rail cars of iron and other metals for a nation short on strategic materials to fight the war. He sponsored the Soap Box Derby in Monticello for many years. Clarence’s wife Alta, is still living at home. In addition to his wife Clarence is survived by his children, seven grandchildren, and two great granddaughters, Rachel Laird and Amy Lynn Bonwell.

Submitted by: Steve Hanken
Source: Monticello Express, 17 August 1983, page 31

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