In loving memory of Roy A. Matson II: 1949-2023


Roy A. Matson II, 74, of Centralia, Washington, passed away Oct. 5, 2023, at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland, Oregon. 

Roy was born Feb. 9, 1949, to Barbara Jean (Hill) and James Taylor Matson, of Selah, Washington. Roy liked to say he shared his birthday with Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian actress who wore a hat that looked like a fruit basket. Roy was a product of the Selah School  District where he attended K-12. After graduation from high school, he attended the University of Washington. 

One of Roy's favorite sayings was "Life is a Song Queue."  For almost any situation, event or person, he knew a song and could sing it. It was amazing! This is the epitaph he said he'd want to have on his headstone. 

Roy had a jovial personality with a knack for storytelling. He had the ability to mix the perfect amount of fact and embellishment. Many of his stories revolved around life as a farm kid, such as having to drive the "Mayflower," a farm truck so old and rickety it must have been around when the Mayflower actually sailed. He was a natural tinkerer with a particular fondness for all things classic. 

His love of the old transcended both traditions, such as using actual candles on the Christmas Tree (with a fire extinguisher close by), to pieces of technology; most of all to three of his passions: classic automobiles, pianos and steam engines. He would remark that the Liberace museum was one of the most perfect places on earth as it had lots of pianos and lots of classic cars. 

Just a few of Roy's prized classic cars included various Packards from the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s, including the 1937 Packard Series 120C, Mildred, his1954 Galahad Green Packard, to the 1956 Packard Patrician, Perry, which was painted Dover white and Packard blue with air conditioning, his favorite road car. His favorite Studebaker was his 1952 three-quarter ton pickup truck named Buster, painted clover green with Cherokee red wheels. He had a fondness for the names of car colors. His Franklins included the 1919 Touring car, the 1928 Franklin Coupe and the 1930 Franklin seven-passenger car. He used the 1930 Franklin one time to transport a bride, her father and her grandfather to the church for her wedding. 

After the nuptials, with Roy as the "limo" driver and Clyde as the footman, they transported the bride and groom to their wedding reception. He also used his 1956 Packard Patrician with Roy as the "limo" driver and Clyde as the footman to carry Jordan and Amy Matson from their nuptials to their wedding reception. He enjoyed driving a retired hearse while attending high school. The hearse came in handy for economic-minded high schoolers going to a drive-in movie since it could hold about 12 kids. 

Over the years, Roy had membership in various vintage car clubs. These car clubs included:, The Solenoid , The Packard Traveler, The Washington President, The Freewheelers, Ethyl Forever, Northwest Scenic Cruisers, Great Autos of Yesteryear and Rear-View Mirror. 

Roy's passion for the piano was unrivaled. He showed an early interest in pianos even as a toddler. Whenever anyone showed even the slightest interest in a piano, he would start crawling over to the piano to sit or lie underneath it because even at that age he knew that was where the best sound was. For a time, he was able to professionally share his passion on the showroom floor of Sherman Clay's Steinway gallery in Seattle. His own collection of pianos included vintage Ampico, Duo-Art and Welte Mignon reproducing pianos with hundreds of accompanying paper rolls. His home housed his own collection of VOG (Voice of God) pianos. His favorite grand pianos, overall, were Chickerings while his favorite uprights were Bush and Lane pianos. One of the jewels of his collection is a Bush and Lane grand piano in book-matched Circassian walnut veneer that he played as a boy. It had belonged to his grandmother, Hazel Matson. 

His other passion was steam power, anything powered by steam. Steam trains, cars, whistles and any other mechanical device that was steam powered. He especially liked the steam engines on steam trains. 

He said that steam trains were alive. Every steam engine was not only alive but had its own personality. He said these living entities went away when the railroads switched to diesel powered engines. 

Roy's hospitality and love of machines, especially old machines, are what most stand out. He put such care and skill into his spaces, using his vast and varied knowledge to create a visiting experience like no other. The parlor housed multiple, fully restored antique reproducing (also known as player) pianos with its floor-to-ceiling library of piano music rolls and was a perfect blend of the function and beauty that Roy enjoyed creating and sharing. He was a lifelong restorer and ardent user of old technology: player pianos and vintage music players of all sorts, antique automobiles, especially Packard cars (pronounced cahs, as on the East Coast). 

Cousin Rod's earliest memory of Roy was hiM arriving at Grandma Joan's house when he was very young and was fascinated with Roy's vehicle and its wonderful, old-timey look and unique horn. 

Roy could nearly always be found near a box of cigars, fine things to eat and drink, and would offer some of everything to anyone who visited. He was always full of stories and curious knowledge about all subjects, from family history to current events and everything in between. 

In October 2000, Roy met Clyde Gartner playing pinochle. This is a four-person card game with each person having a partner that makes a pair. In this game of cards (and in real life for that matter), you always try to find a good partner because you always have to play the cards you're dealt. A good partner greatly increases your chance of success. Roy asked Clyde out on a date. After dating a while, he then asked Clyde if he'd be his partner in all matters as well. And as they say, the rest is history! 

After a short time in the Seattle area, both being farm kids, they moved to Centralia to continue their adventures. One such adventure was the purchase and restoration of a classic home, Lethe, circa 1908. 

Roy would remark at the craftsmanship of the home down to the knob-and-tube wiring. Their home was a welcome place for family and friends, where they would host the occasional Christmas party with live piano music (with no song written after 1940, of course). 

Roy is survived by his husband, Clyde Gartner; brother, Ross Matson, of Selah; niece, Shelly Matson, of Yakima; cousins, Rod Matson (Carmen), of Selah, and Bradley Matson (Melissa), of Portland, Oregon; as well as numerous second and third cousins. 

Roy was preceded in death by his parents, James Matson and Barbara Oliver; his brother, Les Matson; his Aunt Joan and Uncle Richard Matson; and his cousin, Daryl Matson. 

A celebration of life will be held at noon July 20, 2024, at Skyline, his boyhood home near Selah. His friends and relatives are invited to attend and share stories of his life.