RICHMOND, Va. – Rev. John Thomas “Jack” Mathison, navigator of peace, died on May 24, 2022, at age 97 after a period of declining health, in Richmond, Va. He was the widower of Elaine (Sauerwein) and they lived in Goose Rocks Beach, Maine, during their retirement.
Born on March 6, 1925 in Stoughton, Wisc., to Louella (Erdahl) and Otto Mathison, Jack moved at age two with his family to nearby Madison. That same year his father held him in his arms alongside his brother as Charles Lindbergh came down the street in his celebratory return from flying solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1943 Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and trained as a navigator. In 1944 he joined a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber crew, was dispatched to the 15th Air Force in Italy, and on Nov. 16th Jack’s B-24 was shot down over Berchtesgaden, Germany. After a harrowing ordeal, he was captured and then transported by boxcar to Stalag Luft I along the Baltic Sea. Upon his liberation he arrived back in America and telephoned home to learn that his brother, a B-24 pilot, had been killed over Germany.
Jack earned a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and began his career at U.S. Gypsum Co. before being recalled to active duty as a navigator instructor in the Korean War.
After Jack and Elaine married in 1954, he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City where he earned a M.Div. degree. As a Presbyterian clergyman he served in numerous roles.
He was a highly-ecumenical and progressive minister in the pulpit and community.
Jack and Elaine retired to Maine where their family had long-vacationed with two of his fellow WWII airmen and their families.
After Elaine’s death in 2000, Jack moved to Washington, D.C., where he generally resided until months before he died.
Jack indefatigably volunteered in so many leadership and advocacy roles and received so many recognitions that they would spill out of an ark if they were all enumerated or even attempted to be highlighted herein.
In addition to his wife Elaine and brother Paul, he was predeceased by special friend Joan Ensor, brother-in-law Karl Sauerwein, and niece Carolyn Sauerwein.
He is survived by his daughter Jane (Michael) Cooke, sons Paul (Diane) and Tom (Marjil), and grandson Nicholas (fiancée Allie Reid) Mathison. He is also survived by nephews Karl, William, and Christopher Sauerwein, plus a host of extended relatives and life-long friends.
Jack donated his body to science. His cremains will be interred alongside Elaine’s in Maine in the future.
There will be no memorial service.
In lieu of flowers,
donations may be made to:
the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust or:
South Congregational Church, Kennebunkport or:
a worthy alternative of your choice