Volume 74, Number 22 | September 29 - October 5 , 2004

Obituary


Thomas Mathison, 56, bright mind who overcame handicap

The friends of Thomas Herbert Mathison, a West Village neighbor who died Aug. 7 at the age of 56 of leukemia, celebrated his life on Sat., Sept. 18 at a memorial gathering in the back room of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a West Village restaurant and bar on Hudson St.

He lived his entire life with cerebral palsy, which didn’t stop him from traveling by foot and public transit from one end of his beloved Manhattan to the other, according to a longtime friend, Steve Smith.

A summa cum laude graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Mathison went on to Yale where he earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in philosophy, again graduating summa cum laude. In the late 1970s he came to New York, settling in the West Village, where he worked for an advertising agency.

He then concentrated on scholarly research and writing, contributing to academic journals and serious magazines including Dissent. “He was the smartest man I ever met,” Smith recalled. Although Mathison spoke with great difficulty, his conversation was compelling and he was always ready to guide friends and visiting family on his own walking tours of the city. By his own estimate, he walked about 20 miles a week. He would meet many of his friends at Tortilla Flats, the restaurant on Washington St.

Born in Eau Claire, Wisc., Mathison was the valedictorian of his high school class, a member of the debate team, a Boy Scout and an avid chess and bridge player.

He is survived by his parents, Lee Z. and Ruth Baker Mathison; a sister, Kerry Lou Moravec, a nephew, two nieces and several uncles and aunts. His family thanks Beth Israel Hospice and Dewitt Rehab Center as well as David Milch and Dr. Robert Milch, who helped during Tom’s final illness. Donations may be made in his memory to National Public Radio, one of his favorite sources of information and entertainment, or to United Cerebral Palsy of West Central Wisconsin.

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