Mathews Dickey Boys and Girls Club co-founder retiring

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) -  Hundreds of children benefit annually from the programing available at Mathews Dickey Boys and Girls Club. The club  has been gently guided by co-founder Martin Mathews. At age 90 Mr. Mathews is retiring and there's a big celebration this weekend.

It's hard to believe this soft spoken man is the driving force behind a rich legacy.  But, if you spend any time with him, you quickly see, how that very approach reaches both teenagers  and corporate executives.

Martin Mathews is known for touching lives.  He's always sharing wisdom and advice.  His special brand of leadership is documented throughout the hall of fame at Mathews Dickey.  It's a tribute to hard work and athletic zeal.  He himself played semi pro baseball.  That led to him coaching kids.

Mathews and another coach, Dickey Ballentine, realized they could only coach a couple dozen kids between them.  But, hundreds were showing up to play.

"Then we come up with the great idea. Why don't we have boys clubs like they have in south St. Louis. Not knowing the consequences, the cost of trying to do that." said Martin Mathews.

The Mathews Dickey Boys Club was born on a dream and a prayer.

"For the first couple of years they didn't win a ball game. But, by the third year, they became the best there was in three states," Martin Mathews. "Boy they was excited. They say,  'now I'm going to go to college.'"

Martin Mathews proved that you can  take that excitement  and love of sports to  shape young people. It's still working today through various activities the  club offers.

"We got them on the field and talked to them about the three R's Respect, restraint and responsibility," said Martin Mathews. "When they get out of college  then they go into corporate America. And they do that and become successful an become lawyers, doctors, FBI Agents, educators in every field."

The success of the club's alum caught the attention of the Reagan White House. President Ronald Reagan visited in 1982.

"When the president came, he said it was the best place he'd been since he become president of the United States. That probably put a challenge on us cause when the President says that. You have to live up to that." said Martin Mathews.

From a store front on Natural Bridge to the current facility on Kingshighway,  enthusiastic supporters help make the program successful. Among them is August Busch III of Anhauser Busch and former Emerson Executive Chuck Knight.

It was Knight who brought the club and the Rams together when the team first moved to town.  For two years the team worked out of the club.  While club activities took place at other locations.

"Everything here went in storage and they came in here in two weeks.  And we were able to put that together in two weeks." said Chuck Knight.

After 57 years Mr. Mathews legacy will live for generations to come.   The retirement celebreation will be held at the Fox Theatre with a dinner and concert featuring the Isely Brothers.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the club.   F

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