Donald Matthews, 78

Explosives expert, author

October 30, 2006

Donald H. Matthews, an explosives expert, author and inventor who built a successful drilling and blasting business in Sparks, died of Parkinson's disease last Monday at the Broadmead Retirement Community in Hunt Valley. He was 78 and was a longtime resident of Sparks.

Mr. Matthews was born in Sparks on his family's farm and grew up working the fields with mules. "At heart, he was a farmer," said Christopher Steuart, his son-in-law.

Mr. Matthews was an honor student and an athlete in both high school and college. He graduated from the old Sparks High School in 1944, and studied physical education at Salisbury College from 1946 to 1947.

In 1949, he married his high school sweetheart, the former Jean Harrington.

In 1960, Mr. Matthews founded Explosives Engineers Inc., which did drilling and quarry blasting and some demolition work, according to his son-in-law. It eventually expanded into five Mid-Atlantic states.

Mr. Matthews was active with the Associated Builders and Contractors and related organizations. And he helped to found the International Society of Explosives Engineers, which he served both as a director and president from 1980 to 1983. He founded and contributed to the organization's magazine.

Mr. Matthews retired in 1997 and sold his company to a group of employees, who now operate it as Explosive Experts Inc.

In that year, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He kept careful track of the progression of his illness and his treatments, compiling it all into a book, called Living With an Intruder Named Parkinson.

Copies of his account have been donated to medical schools and other organizations to convey the nature of the illness from a patient's perspective.

A tinkerer, Mr. Matthews held patents for several inventions, including a cane with unique handle, an adjustable crutch and a shepherd's crook.

Mr. Matthews served as a Cub Scout leader during the 1960s, and coached baseball, soccer and junior wrestling for the Baltimore County Recreation Council. He enjoyed raising vegetables and was an enthusiastic tennis player and horseman. He enjoyed working with his giant schnauzer show dog, Lazarus.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Friends Meeting House at Quaker Bottom and Priceville roads in Sparks.

In addition to his wife of 57 years, he is survived by two sons, David S. Matthews of Stewartstown, Pa., and D. Scott Matthews of White Hall; a daughter, Lynda M. Steuart of Butler; two brothers, Jack I. Matthews of Chestertown and Thomas W. Matthews of Lake Hamilton, Fla.; a sister, Margaret Miller of Sparks; and five grandchildren.

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