ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis civic legend was laid to rest on Thursday.

Family, friends, and community members gathered to pay their respects to Dr. Martin Luther Mathews, co-founder of the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club. He co-founded the club in 1960 with the late Hubert “Dickey” Ballentine.

The larger-than-life figure died last week at the age of 97. The funeral services for Mathews were held at the Washington University Graham Chapel. Hundreds of mourners came together to celebrate his life.

Mathews’ body lay in state Wednesday for visitation at the club, where he touched the lives of more than a million children throughout the St. Louis region. By transforming lives with youth sports and having a major impact on Olympic legend Jackie Joyner Kersee, who won six medals, including three gold.

“When I first started and wanted to do my work, it was in the 80s, and he introduced me to so many people,” Kersee said. Even during my struggles, he always told me to remember what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. It’s important to celebrate his life. The shoes will never be filled. What a great man.”

Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club is a United Way non-profit organization devoted to youth development. Its mission is to produce well-educated, physically active, hopeful young people. Its vision is that every child has the skills, resources, and support to become a productive adult. They also learned the three “R’s” – respect, restraint, and responsibility.

“He was an awesome man in this community, a giant of a man. His focus was on the next generation and the youth and children,” said Bishop Elijah Hankerson III. “A lot of times in society, when we are trying to make a difference, we usually focus on adults, but he felt the children would make a difference. I knew him for 24 years, that’s all he ever talked about, that was his passion. He was a blessing in my life, and my ministry, and the St. Louis community.”