Vernon Mathena Sr., bred Appaloosa horses

January 13, 1993|By Staff Report

Vernon W. "Pap" Mathena Sr., a dairy farmer and breeder of Appaloosa horses, died Saturday at Baltimore County General Hospital after a brief illness. He was 80.

The Pennsylvania native moved to Charles Town, W.Va., in 1914. Several years later, he moved to the Chestnut Hill area of West Virginia, near Harpers Ferry, where he attended public school and met Ethelean Wilt, his childhood sweetheart. They eloped in 1929.

During the summer of 1930, he went to work at an asphalt plant, then became a plow-horse driver after the asphalt business folded.

In 1931, he became the farm manager for a Maryland doctor who owned extensive property in Baltimore County, including the land on which Edrich Lumber Inc. sits on Old Court Road.

For $30 a month, a furnished home and all the cows and farm equipment they needed, the Mathenas managed the 240-acre Quarry Company Farm off Old Court Road, growing feed for horses used in the nearby quarry, and the 120-acre Peach Farm on Davis Avenue, a dairy operation.

In 1939, he and his wife moved to Peach Farm.

In 1945, he bought both farms and developed a 300-cow dairy farm and grew crops.

During that time, he also worked a night shift at an Ellicott City doughnut factory.

In 1955, he established Granite Mobile Home Park on Davis Avenue, after he found he was violating zoning ordinances by keeping the trailers of soldiers stationed at a nearby military installation on his farm. The trailer park is now owned by his son, Vernon W. Mathena Jr.

When a barn burned down in 1962, the Mathenas got out of the dairy business. He began breeding Appaloosa horses, showing them throughout Maryland and winning many awards.

He bred the horses until his stallion died in 1988, but kept the remaining horses.

In 1982, the Mathenas moved to a new farm, situated near a pond on Davis Avenue in the middle of the land they meted out to their nine children, most of whom still live in homes they built around their parents' residence.

Mr. Mathena never officially retired, saying "I only get tired" when people asked him about retirement. He could often be seen riding to another horse show or just taking a buggy ride, always wearing his signature light-colored cowboy hat.

He often gave people buggy rides. Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke rode in one in a parade marking the 200-year celebration of the ratification of the Constitution in 1988.

He never charged people to use his teams of horses, even when they pulled a buggy for a wedding, but would ask people to make donations to the Granite Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Mathena was a member of the Colorado Ranger Horse Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club, the League of Maryland Horsemen, Inc., and the Maryland Draft Horse and Mule Association.

He was a life member of the Antique Motor Club of Greater Baltimore, and a member of the Farm Bureau.

He had been a member of Granite Presbyterian Church since 1953.

Services were conducted yesterday at Granite Presbyterian Church. The coffin was then carried on a buckboard pulled by two of his Appaloosas to the church's cemetery for burial.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four daughters, Betty G. Meekins and Patricia A. Haddaway of Granite, Vivian A. Leatherwood of Woodbine and Barbara E. Harris of Venice, Fla.; four sons, Vernon W. Mathena Jr., Bremen L. Mathena Sr. and Charles R. Mathena, all of Granite, and Larry R. Mathena Sr. of Abingdon; 21 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Granite Presbyterian Church, 10637 Old Court Road, Granite, Md. 21163.

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