Kingston remembers former mayor and local sports builder Ken Matthews

Ken Matthews: November 14, 1928 — January 10, 2024. Photo via Kingston Sports Hall of Fame.

Former Kingston mayor and longtime city councillor Ken Matthews passed away last week at the age of 95. While Matthews was remembered for his many years spent in local politics, he was also an avid member of Kingston’s sporting community. For over 50 years, Matthews served as a volunteer, coach, manager, official, and mentor for a number of local organizations, across a wide range of sports. 

In the 1940s, Matthews coached the local Kiwanis bantam and midget boys softball teams, leading one group to an eastern Ontario championship victory in 1948. In 1952, he coached the local Cardinals midget baseball team to the provincial finals. From 1955 to 1957, Matthews helped lead teams to three consecutive Kingston Baseball Association senior championships. 

Away from the baseball diamond, Matthews was also a valuable member of the city’s minor hockey community, founding the Royals organization in 1951, and serving as their head coach until 1963. During the 1956-57 minor hockey season, Matthews coached the Kingston midget all-stars to the provincial finals. 

Not only was Matthews a dedicated coach and mentor who supported the pursuits of countless local minor athletes throughout his life, but he also found time to serve as organizer and leader for many local sports organizations at the executive level. From 1958 to 1959, he was treasurer of the Kingston Baseball Association; in 1952 he was elected president of the organization. 

From 1968 to 1969, Matthews was president of the Kingston Aces senior ‘A’ hockey club. Beginning in 1992, he spent over a decade taking on a number of different roles within the Kingston Ponies senior baseball club executive, until he retired from the organization in 2005 at the age of 77. 

In 1996, Matthews was one of the founding members of the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame, filling various roles on the organization’s board of directors over the years, including as treasurer. In 2008, he was formally inducted into the Hall as a Builder in hockey and baseball. 

Following the news of Matthews’s passing on January 10, 2024, the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame released a statement honouring its “dear friend.” “Ken was involved in almost every aspect of building sport in our community, from supervising to coaching, managing, administering, and officiating,” wrote current Hall of Fame President Walter DaCosta.  

The statement added, “On behalf of the Board of Directors and Selection Committee, we send our deepest condolences to Ken’s family.” 

Not only did Matthews’s passing resonate with members of the local sporting community, but his years of dedication and public service as a former city councillor and mayor also drew reaction from some of the city’s local politicians, including Kingston and the Islands Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Gerretsen. 

In a statement shared on social media, Gerretsen remarked on the many decades Matthews spent serving his community. “For nearly a century Ken left his mark on the Kingston community both in local sports and politics… Ken Matthews was a household name around our dinner table in the 1970s and 80s,” wrote the current MP and former mayor. 

Gerretsen added, “I thoroughly enjoyed bumping into Ken and always benefited from the wisdom he would [impart] on me, never [without] his smile and amazing sense of humour. He was humble and one of the kindest people to ever lead our city.” 

First elected to Kingston City Council in the early 1960s, Matthews would go on to serve 33 non-consecutive years there, representing several districts, primarily Cataraqui in the city’s north end. 

In 1993, Matthews became the interim mayor of Kingston in one of the more bizarre political events in the city’s history. After then-mayor Helen Cooper resigned to accept a three-year appointment as chair of the Ontario Municipal Board, Matthews’s name was drawn from a shoebox after a tie vote among councillors to select Cooper’s replacement. 

Matthews went on to serve as interim mayor throughout the duration of the Council term, eventually losing his re-election bid to Gary Bennett in the 1994 mayoral campaign. 

Current Mayor of Kingston Bryan Paterson shared the following statement: “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former mayor and long-time councillor Ken Matthews. Ken was an incredibly dedicated politician who cared deeply about the people he represented and loved being able to help those in need. In my past conversations with him, it was always so clear how passionate he was about Kingston and how much he loved this community. He will be greatly missed.” 

With his 33 total years in local politics, Matthews remains one of the city’s two longest-serving municipal politicians, the other being the late George Webb. 

Matthews was laid to rest during a service held on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. According to his obituary, donations in his honour can be directed to St. Paul’s Anglican Church. 

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