Jim Matheson never turned anyone away from his Carneros ranch, whether it was a friend popping in for an unannounced visit or a neighborhood kid needing a temporary place to stay.
Even when money was tight for the family, Jim’s response to everyone who arrived at his door was, “Grab a bunk.”
Jim was a born storyteller. Favorite topics included his hunting adventures, geology and local history. Family and friends will sorely miss hearing those tales. Jim died Feb. 18 at his Carneros home, where he had been receiving hospice care. He was 94.
James Ludwell Matheson was born on Feb. 8, 1924 in Concord to John and Erna Matheson. He was a star athlete in baseball and football in high school. After graduating, he enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College but dropped out after one term because his academic studies conflicted with hunting season.
Jim joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served as a gunner’s mate in the South Pacific during World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and moved to Napa to be near his parents.
One afternoon, Jean Adams was on the school bus heading to her family’s home in Monticello, at what is now Lake Berryessa, when she spotted a handsome young man in a corral working horses.
Jean let out a hearty whistle to get his attention. Much to her embarrassment, she later ran into the young man at a community dance. He introduced himself as Jim, and thus began their courtship.
Jim’s Ford Model A pick-up rumbled so loudly that Jean never had to guess when he was about to arrive for a date. Neither did Jean’s father.
The couple were married on June 19, 1948 at First Presbyterian Church in Napa and made their home at the family’s Carneros property.
Jim’s career as a Teamsters truck driver included delivering mail to Redding, Reno and Medford, Oregon. The route earned him the nickname “Bald Eagle Express,” and on the morning he died, family members were moved by the sight of an actual bald eagle flying over the family ranch.
Jim is survived by his wife, Jean, and the couple’s children – Margie Morin, Bob Matheson (Coni), Charlie Matheson (Mary Lee), Ben Matheson (Linda) and Janice Owens (Allen). All reside in Napa with the exception of Charlie, who lives in Smartsville, California.
Survivors also include five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. The great-grandchildren brought him tremendous joy in his later years. One grandson, Clint Morin, preceded him in death.
The family would like to extend their sincere appreciation to Dr. Thomas Suard and Dr. Paul Dugan for their care and compassion.
Jim will be interred in a private ceremony featuring military honors at Tulocay Cemetery Funeral Home and Crematory in Napa.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held Saturday, March 17 at Napa Bowl. Friends and family are welcomed to stop by anytime between 1 and 4 p.m. For more information, phone 707-495-4039.