There’s an expression that comes to mind when referring to veterans: “All gave some, some gave all.”
For Portsmouth native Richard “Rick” Matteson, service to his country as a Marine meant a big sacrifice. He lost his life at age 23 in a fire while protecting classified information.
The accident that took his life occurred in 1978. Although it was decades ago, his dedication and commitment to protect his country have not been forgotten. His sacrifice was recently honored at a local ceremony attended by family and church members at the Church of the Resurrection in Churchland.
A community-minded young man, he grew up in a military family. His father, Everett “Mattie” Matteson, now 90 years old, is a retired Coast Guard officer who is proud of his son’s dedication to his country. The elder Matteson served 30 years in the service and is a World War II veteran.
Matteson spoke with emotion and pride in his voice for a son who proudly served his country.
“Richard always gave everything he had in whatever he did. He was in Junior ROTC at school, like his brother, Jay, and he did very well. Richard was also involved in Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He also served as an altar boy at church,” Matteson said during the dedication ceremony of a flagpole in his son’e honor.
After graduating from Churchland High School in 1972, Rick Matteson accepted a full scholarship to The Citadel military college in Charleston, S.C., graduating in 1976. He joined the United States Marines as an officer and was was trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, and at Quantico, Virginia. After serving time in Okinawa, Japan, he was temporarily assigned to the 13th Counter-Intelligence Team at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, at Twentynine Palms, California.
While stationed in California, an accidental fire occurred in the building where he worked. Rick Matteson had removed classified information from a safe when he saw the smoke. The intelligence officer lost his life taking the classified information back to the safe in spite of the danger, as others were escaping the building.
“Richard was an active duty 2nd lieutenant in the Marines when the accident happened,” Matteson said. “In addition to the loss of his life, because of the fire, the NCIS building had to undergo reconstruction later and was dedicated to my son.”
Today, a bronze plaque bearing Richard Matteson’s name is affixed to the front of that building, which now has an automatic overhead sprinkler system throughout.
Now, also dedicated to him, a flagpole stands on the Church of the Resurrection property. From it waves an American flag and the flag of the Catholic Church. A plaque engraved with Matteson’s name along with mention of other active duty veterans, is attached to the flagpole that was erected by the Saint Paul’s Council 418 Knights of Columbus.
Pastor Anthony Morris had mentioned wanting a flagpole on the property, and church member Denis Garrett led the project to get one installed.
“The church had a mum sale and a Brunswick stew dinner to raise the funds needed for the project,” Garrett said. “People were very generous when paying for their dinners or mums, letting us have extra money towards our goal.”
Growing up as the son of a service member, Rick Matteson knew what it was like to move from school to school. The family made the move to Hampton Roads from Governor’s Island in New York in 1967. His father, Everett Matteson, was on the admiral’s staff of the U.S. Coast Guard Fifth District in Portsmouth. He eventually helped shut down the supply depot when the base moved to Craney Island.
The Matteson family is deeply rooted in the area. Matteson and his late wife, Josephine, had four children. Their oldest son, Everett Jr., “Jay,” now deceased, worked for 20 years as a dispatcher for the Portsmouth police and fire departments. Their remaining children, Joanne Foster and Paul Matteson, live nearby and are a great support to their father.
Matteson spends his days now reflecting on the past, his family, his days of going camping and fishing, attending Admirals games and on his military career.
As he gazed up at the waving flag he said, “It’s a privilege to serve this country.”
Posted in: Virginian Pilot
Link to original obituary: https://www.pilotonline.com/news/article_864fd46a-3cd9-5718-b0e9-f93ad88c3301.html