Marching band member Lou Matas turns 99
For years, he's crooned for others as a member of an itinerant singing group, and entertained celebratory crowds as part of a marching band. But it was Louis Matas' turn to be serenaded and celebrated last week at a local restaurant as he turned 99.
A crowd of 50 to 55 helped Mr. Matas, a resident of Atherton for more than 40 years, celebrate the end of his ninth decade on Jan. 29, a day before his birthday. They all gathered at Harry's Hofbrau in Redwood City, where Mr. Matas and his longtime neighbor, Doug Anderson, have dinner every Tuesday night.
It was Mr. Anderson who organized the celebration — the second consecutive birthday party at Harry's. "The third one I'm scheduling for AT&T Park," Mr. Anderson says.
Between now and then, though, Mr. Matas has lots to do. A tenor with the Golden Tones singers, he rehearses with the group every Friday in San Mateo, and sings three times a month at convalescent facilities on the Peninsula.
His music skills are also on display in the washboard section of the colorful Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band, in which his neighbor, Mr. Anderson, plays snare drum. The band marches in celebrations such as the St. Patrick's Day and Columbus Day parades in San Francisco. Mr. Matas notes that he brings up "the tail end of the band."
Performers with both the Golden Tones and the marching band were at the birthday party, as was banjo player John Robbins, whose group, Happy Time Banjos, performs at the hofbrau on Tuesdays. Mr. Anderson says the banjo player came early that night to join in with other musicians in the room to provide the celebratory sounds for the event.
Granddaughter Patricia Poole flew in from Washington state for the party, and offered a tribute to Mr. Matas, Mr. Anderson says. Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, whom Mr. Matas calls "the nicest mayor on the Peninsula," presented the honoree with a proclamation from the town.
Also in attendance was Rigo Laguardia, an official of the San Mateo County Carpenters Union No. 217 — an organization Mr. Matas has belonged to longer than any other member, Mr. Anderson says.
A self-described craftsman during his long career, Mr. Matas built many homes on the Peninsula, including in Atherton, getting his contractor's license in the 1940s, he says. Mr. Anderson says he likes to joke with his neighbor about the number of homes in town he's help to build, noting that "he's been in more women's bedrooms than any man in Atherton."
The two men have been pals just about as long as they've been neighbors: about 40 years. "He's a wonderful neighbor," Mr. Anderson says. "He has five tools of anything you need," and fixes anything in Doug and Pamela Anderson's home that Mr. Anderson "can't use duct tape or WD-40 on," he says.
A San Francisco native, Mr. Matas worked in the shipyards for the defense industry during World War II. He and his wife, Marie, had two daughters: Libby and Madelyn. Both Marie and Libby have passed away, and Madelyn lives in Washington state, Mr. Matas says.
He's a man of many interests. In addition to music, Mr. Matas belongs to two Model A clubs, and owns a completely restored 1929 Model A Ford. And, he still drives, possessing a license that expires when he turns 103. "But I don't drive at night," he says, adding that he relies on friends to give him a ride if he goes out after dark.
He's in good health, with no medical problems, he says. And what's the secret to long life? "How can we tell?" he responds. "I believe that, number one, you get a certain something from your father and your mother.
"The second thing is, all things in moderation." Perhaps so, but few people who know him are likely to say that Lou Matas is moderate in his enthusiasm for living.