George Mathys was such a wonderful person, his wife said, that when she went to buy him a card for his birthday or Valentine’s Day, she felt every nice sentiment she read was about him.
Mary Anne Mathys said she thought to herself, “I can’t believe that this would apply to anyone else’s husband but mine. Every category that was covered was him.”
“He’s just so loving, giving, wonderful and generous in every way,” Mary Anne Mathys said.
George Mathys, a former Southampton Town Republican leader, volunteer firefighter and croquet champion who was known as a “powerful force” in local politics, died on his 84th birthday last month from lung cancer complications, his wife said.
Family, friends and party leaders described Mathys as a generous mentor, “astute political adviser” and “sharp businessman,” who went from working as a milkman to launching an “empire” of sanitation companies.
The son of a railway worker and housewife, Mathys was born and raised in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, his wife said. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School.
Mathys wanted to be a Marine, but after he failed the physical exam because of asthma, he moved to Hampton Bays with his family in the 1950s and delivered milk for Schwenk’s Dairy, his wife said.
After customers told him their garbage wasn’t getting collected, Mathys decided to start a garbage route. He bought a garbage truck for $200 and launched George’s Sanitation, which eventually had more than 30 trucks, according to a friend and Mathys’ wife. He later launched George’s East End Recycling and expanded into a wood-grinding business.
Mathys was “the American dream,” said longtime friend Ann LaWall, who first met Mathys when he was her garbageman in 1974. “He came out here and had nothing and he built himself an empire.”
Mathys served as the Southampton Town Republican chairman for about four years. Newsday described him as a “powerful force in town politics” in one report during his tenure. He helped the party win several races and was adept at raising money and bringing people together, said former town board member Marietta Seaman. Mathys also represented the East End at the 1992 Republican National Convention.
Like most figures in politics, Mathys was occasionally the subject of controversy, including allegations — which he denied — that he used his sway with town officials to get a planning board member reappointed and support the development of a video store on Montauk Highway, according to news reports at the time.
But Republicans remembered only his skill as party chair.
“He was one of the greatest leaders of the Southampton Republican Party,” former Republican Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said. “His reach went much farther than Southampton Town.”
Mathys met Mary Anne in 1991 at party events, she said. After Mathys stepped down as chairman, the two moved to Quogue and went into real estate together, owning the Midhampton Business Park in Quogue.
Mathys stayed involved in politics. He organized a monthly social gathering of former Republican officials that was called “The Back to the Wall Club,” a joke that they should always sit where they can see who is approaching, LaWall said.
Mathys was also known for his service to his community. A volunteer Hampton Bays firefighter, he helped the hamlet get its first ambulance decades ago, his wife said. He also served as president of the East End Chambers Association and the local Lions Club, she said.
He also had a wide range of hobbies. He collected antique cars, built an impressive model train setup and acted in a local production of “Plaza Suite.” He also traveled around the world to play professional croquet and won several tournaments, including at Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where the couple had a second home.
Mathys died surrounded by family at his Quogue home, his wife said. Several fire departments participated in a funeral car procession starting at R.J. O’Shea Funeral Home in Hampton Bays, she said.
Mathys is survived by his daughters from a previous marriage, Debra, Donna and Nancy; stepsons, Bruce and Craig Dalessio; 12 grandchildren; and 14 great grandchildren. His sister predeceased him.
Donations in his memory may be made to the National Croquet Center, 700 Florida Mango Rd. in West Palm Beach, Florida.