The author lost a friend and the nation lost a great patriot with the death of Charles B. Mathews, Major of the US Air Force [Ret.] October 11, 2021. Charlie was originally from Andalucia, Alabama, and the son of Major Don S. Mathews, a WWII and Korean War veteran.
Charles Benson Mathews was born March 16, 1930 in Andalusia, Alabama. His parents were Don Snowden and Mary Benson Mathews. Charlie attended Andalusian schools until the family moved to Oklahoma, when his father was posted to the Fort Sill military base after World War II. Charlie attended schools near Lawton, Oklahoma, graduating from Lawton High School in 1948.
Charlie entered the Alabama Polytechnic [now Auburn University] in the fall and graduated in Industrial Management in 1952. He was a member of the Air Force ROTC unit, the Arnold Air Society, and Honorary Serviceman, Scabbard and Blade. Charlie was ordered a 2sd Lieutenant after graduation. He was accepted for flight training and reported to Stallings Air Force Base near Kinston, North Carolina. After receiving his pilot’s wings in 1953, he deployed to Japan and Korea with the 34e Bombing squadron.
Charlie flew B-26 bombers in Japan and Korea before returning to the United States and switching to jets. He flew the B-57 bomber while stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Until it separated from the Air Force in 1956. He then joined the Alabama National Air Guard, flying the RF-84 Thunderjet for the next ten years before retiring from the Air Force Reserve at Duke Field, Florida. He returned to Auburn in 1956 and obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering, followed by a master of science in aerospace engineering. While in Auburn, Charlie was elected to the Honorary Fraternities, Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma and Pi Mu Epsilon.
While still stationed at Hurlburt Field near Mary Esther, Fla., Charlie was introduced to the Foster family of Opp, Alabama, at their summer residence by his aunt Gladys Reid. Two and a half years later he married their daughter Lynne. They would have celebrated their 64e birthday on January 18, 2022.
After graduating from Auburn in 1962, Charlie began working as an engineer with the Air Force Armament Laboratory [later the Armament Directorate] at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. He held various positions there until his retirement as Technical Director of the Weapons Flight Mechanics division in 1994.
Throughout his 32-year professional engineering career, Charlie has been active in numerous professional engineering societies and advocacy associations. He was President of the Air Force Association in 1980. He was named “Most Valuable Person of the Year” by the Air Force Weapons Directorate in 1994.
In 1978, Charlie was invited to participate in the NATO Aerospace Research and Development Advisory Group on Missile Aerodynamics Lecture Series held in Ankara, Turkey; Rome, Italy; London, England and Brussels, Belgium.
In 1982, Charlie accepted the post of Chief Air Weapons Officer for the NATO International Secretariat in Brussels, Belgium. Lynne said that when Charles first learned that the position would become available in 1981, he was told that the manager needed to be fluent in French. She said Charles studied French for a year and was selected from two other applicants.
The NATO staff included two retired generals, French General Francis Perrotte and Italian General Juan Carlo Ortenze, who also looked after Mathews weekends and holidays, continuing their tour of Europe. . The staff held weeklong meetings in NATO countries every three months. Charlie and Lynne spent many vacations and weekends at the Perotte family home in Normandy. Charlie and Lynne lived in Brussels for five years until he returned to Eglin AFB in 1987.
Charlie and Lynne were very active in the community of Fort Walton Beach – Mary Esther, Fla., And members of St. Simon’s on the Sound Episcopal Church. Charlie was active in the Krewe of Bowlegs at Fort Walton and was first mate 1975-76. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, skiing, traveling and boating in the Strait of Santa Rosa. Charlie also loved golf and was already 70 years old.
Charles Benson Mathews passed away on October 11, 2021. He was predeceased by his parents Lt. Col. Don S. and Mary B. Mathews of Andalusia, Alabama. He is survived by his wife, Lynne Foster Mathews; one son, Charles B. Mathews, Jr. and his wife, Carla Peiffer Mathews; daughter marie [Cissy] Mathews Brown and her husband H. French Brown, III; five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
The author thanks Ms. Lynne Mathews for her assistance in telling the story of Charles Mathews.