John Matthias, 57, Montgomery Co. planner

May 09, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

John Otto Matthias III, a veteran community and transportation planner in Montgomery County, died Saturday at his Columbia home of colon cancer. He was 57.

Mr. Matthias worked for 30 years for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, helping design master plans for Gaithersburg and Germantown.

Later, as transit and high-occupancy vehicle coordinator for the planning commission in Montgomery County, he worked to ease traffic congestion by promoting car pools, bus lanes and mass transit in the northern part of the county, said Richard Hawthorne, chief of transportation planning and Mr. Matthias' boss.

"He was a strong conscience for the rest of us" in integrating transit into community plans and maintaining rights of way on land set aside for mass transit systems, Mr. Hawthorne said.

Mr. Matthias was born in Oakland, Calif., and earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley in 1968 and a master's degree in urban planning from Columbia University in 1970.

He began his planning career working for Richard Brown Associates in Columbia. In 1971, he joined the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a government agency that oversees planning for Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

A colleague said that throughout his career, Mr. Matthias held onto ideals "going back to his roots as a planner," creating towns that integrated home, work and recreation.

"When he did the Germantown plan, he was trying to create a new town in the same vein as Columbia, where he lived," said Karen Kumm, urban design coordinator for the planning commission and a 20-year colleague.

"He was one of those dear people who would always go the extra mile, always lend a hand," Ms. Kumm said.

Mr. Matthias was also good at bringing governments and community leaders together.

"He was doing what we say is `community building.' He was doing that before that word was ever coined," she said.

Brian Long, a Germantown community activist who worked with Mr. Matthias on the Germantown town center plan in the early 1990s, described him as "a very affable, down-to-earth guy" who was thoughtful about community planning.

In addition to his professional work as a planner, Mr. Matthias designed and made jewelry, using silver and gems, said his wife of 35 years, the former Lisa Broady. Mr. Matthias studied jewelry making at Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Mr. Hawthorne said Mr. Matthias also liked to share his jewelry with colleagues at the planning commission.

"Here's a guy who was able to deal with big-picture things, like what the transit system will look like in Montgomery County in 25 years, but he still took time to make little pieces of jewelry and give it to the administrative staff on holidays," he said.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Fulton in Howard County, 11795 Route 216.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Matthias is survived by three daughters, Christine Matthias and Elizabeth Matthias, both of Columbia, and Lauren Matthias of Philadelphia; his mother, Martha McCarter, and stepfather, Bob McCarter, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; two brothers, Thomas McCarter of Palo Alto, Calif., and Guy McCarter of New York City; and a sister, Sarah McCarter of Booneville, Calif.

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