A civic leader for Newton, and a leader of First United Methodist Church, passed away this week.

"This will leave a hole," said Doug Tofteland, pastor for First United Methodist Church.

Larry Mathews, 76, led a life dedicated to community before he died Nov. 30. That community he was dedicated to was Newton.

His civic resume includes 12 years on the city commission, including three stints as mayor. He was a youth sports coach and official, and a fixture with a Salvation Army bell in his hand each holiday season.

"Civic involvement was a natural part of him,"Tofteland said. "I'm sure his faith was part of that as well. ... As a leader he was someone who is part of the history and the present. He could bring the past into perspective…. You have to blend the past into perspective."

As a member of First United Methodist Church, he was active as the president of the United Methodist Men, almost every council or committee at least once, taught an adult Sunday School class, worked with youth groups, sang in the choir and men’s chorus and was often in the kitchen.

He also organized a meal each year during the church Bazaar, and in the words of Tofteland was a leader among the men of the church.

"He always got the men going, and someone needs to get the men going," Tofteland said.

He was born April 19, 1937 and graduated from Newton High School in the class of 1955.

Mathews retired from Southwestern Bell after 31 years of service and Builders Concrete for 16 years. He was president of the Communication Workers of America Local 6402.

He was also active in the Harvey County, state and National Democratic Party, serving in chair positions and attending one National Convention.

He was also a family man.

"He was a servant," Tofteland said. "He loved family, and sports. … He and (wife) Evelyn were together a lot. They mirrored each other. She is a worker and a leader as well. Family was very important to him."

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn Seyler; three children, Maureen Poull, Deena Sawyer (Jeff), Kelly Mathews (Jennifer) and Ian Scott; two sisters, Glenna Stuckey (Jim) and Marilyn Mathews; one brother, Merwyn Mathews and Loren Mathews (Corleen); six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

A celebration of remembrance will be at 1 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Newton. Internment of ashes will be family only at a later date.