James Paul Mathias, a former resident of Three Rivers, died peacefully on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. He was 80.
Jim was born January 4, 1934, to Lillian and Charlie Mathias in Tulare. He graduated from Tulare Union High School in 1952.
From 1952 to 1955, Jim studied pre-med at Occidental College (Los Angeles). This is where he met his wife and mother of his four children, Charlene.
Jim joined the U.S. Army prior to completing his degree at Occidental College. He served in the Armed Forces in Germany. Upon his return, he reenrolled in college at Fresno State and completed a degree in agronomy.
Jim moved back to Tulare County in the late 1950s where he operated the family ranches in Tulare.
Jim moved to Three Rivers in 1977. He worked at Three Rivers Union School for 17 years as the maintenance supervisor and bus driver.
Jim was a woodworker. Those who had children in the second grade at Three Rivers School during the 1980s and ‘90s were beneficiaries of his talents.
Each year, he provided Suzanne Rich’s students with an 18-inch tall snowman-shaped block of wood, made from old Three Rivers fence posts, that the children would paint and decorate. Many Three Rivers homes are still graced each year by these treasured holiday decorations.
Jim began on his path to professional woodturning when he was given a lathe at the age of 10. This was during World War II, and he spent many hours turning wood during blackouts with blankets over the windows.
Upon his retirement from TRUS in 1994, Jim once again had the time to work with wood and spent his days in his “Firewood Modification Shop” at his South Fork home, where he turned ordinary pieces of wood into beautiful works of art as well as taught others the intricacies of the craft.
“Woodturning is my hobby that has turned profitable,” Jim said in his Neighbor Profile (November 27, 1998).
Jim was a member of the Woodlake Rotary Club for 54 years. In 2010, the club honored him with a plaque for his half-century of service on behalf of the organization.
He was also a member of various woodturning clubs and a member of Rancheros Visitadores (the “Visiting Ranchers,” a social club that takes place on horseback).
Jim’s life passions were woodturning, horseshoes, backcountry mountaineering, flying, skiing, and farming.
About two years ago, Jim left his Three Rivers home and has resided since that time at Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his two older brothers, Eugene Mathias and Bob Mathias.
Jim is survived by his daughter Lisa Ihle and husband Todd of Walnut Creek; son Eric Mathias of Sacramento; son David Mathias and wife Samantha of Visalia; daughter Paula Fryer and husband Stuart of Concord; 10 grandchildren; and his sister, Patricia Guerrero of Tulare.
Remembrances may be made to the donor’s local Rotary Club, Stanford Medical Center-Parkinson’s Research (http://medicalgiving.stanford.edu/ways-to-give.html), or the charity of the donor’s choice.
To honor Jim’s wishes, services will be held privately.