Dave Mathewson

Written by AMA Staff In the Air Column As seen in the January 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

This video originally appeared in the November 1, 2018, edition of AMA's webcast: AMA Air. Find more episodes at http://air.modelaircraft.org.

Known to AMA members across the country as a former AMA District II associate vice president (AVP), vice president (VP), AMA president, and the organization’s executive director (ED), many also counted Dave Mathewson as a friend. On October 21, 2018, the aeromodeling hobby suffered a stinging loss when Dave passed away at age 66. The RC Aerobatics (Pattern) pilot has been described by many as the hobby’s biggest cheerleader and a passionate leader. AMA employees would likely say that as the ED, Dave was hard working, dedicated, and always had the members’ and employees’ best interests at heart. Although he often worked well past the time his employees went home each day, he never hesitated to stop and thank them for their hard work or listen to their concerns. He was a friend to all. “Dave was a giant of a man, loved by most everyone, and his passing leaves a tremendous void in our hearts,” wrote Gary Fitch, former AMA executive vice president. “Those of us who knew Dave Mathewson well are much better people because of him.” Those who knew Dave also knew that he was a private man. He kept his health issues confidential and wanted his services after he passed away to be private. But one thing that he did not keep to himself was his passion for model aviation. “Dave’s love of the hobby was infectious,” wrote AMA President Rich Hanson. When he took office as AMA’s ED in April 2011, following the resignation of Jim Cherry, Dave likely had no idea that the hobby was about to enter the fight of its life. But he went to battle and ensured that AMA did everything it could to secure the hobby’s future. He also turned around a membership decline. “Dave was one of the most positive people I have known,” Gary shared. “His enthusiasm was infectious with our AMA staff as they reorganized and worked together. Dave’s management style was immediately effective in moving our organization forward. In his first year as ED, AMA turned around a multiyear decline in membership to one that grew each year.” Gary fondly recalled the first time that he met Dave in 2000: “We first met in early August at a fun-fly—my first as AVP and likely his first as VP. I was assembling a plane when I looked down the pit line and saw this guy, small in stature, but larger than life itself, walking the line. “[In a] new AMA white shirt and blue hat, he had that swagger that said I’m confident in what I’m doing for AMA. It took him 30 minutes to travel 100 feet because everyone wanted to meet him. I finally got my chance and it was the beginning of the closest of friendships,” Gary stated. While living in New York, Dave served as a District II AVP from 1995 to late 2000, then served as the district’s VP until 2007. In 2003, he decided to run for AMA president, but lost. His second bid for that position was successful, and he served as president from 2008 to April 2011. According to Gary, when Dave decided to step down as president and move to Muncie, Indiana, to serve as the ED, he and his wife, Ginger, had to make some sacrifices. “Dave sold his [dental lab] business in Syracuse, New York,” Gary wrote. “Ginger gave up a lucrative medical position, and they sold their home so that he could become our executive director.” Rich added that Dave “very effectively and efficiently managed AMA’s daily operations until his retirement.” After retiring as AMA ED, Dave wanted to spend more time pursing his passion: flying model aircraft. He planned a trip with Gary to Joe Nall Week at the Triple Tree Aerodrome in Woodruff, South Carolina, but the event was canceled because of heavy rain. Later, in July 2018, Ginger drove Dave to a fun-fly at Gary’s club. Gary remembers that event fondly. “He was getting weaker by the week, but he was determined to show up, and our members loved talking with him. Dave’s best friend and Pattern flier, Mike Gosson, made the three-hour trip to be with and fly with Dave. I believe this was the last event Dave was able to physically attend and we loved having him there,” Gary added. Gary was able to see Dave again in the last few days of his life. “While he could barely talk, he raised his hand and gave us a fist bump. He knew what he meant to us.” Dave was laid to rest in St. Francis Xavier Cemetery, in Marcellus, New York. In his obituary, friends and family were asked that instead of sending flowers, to send donations to the AMA, 5161 E. Memorial Dr., Muncie IN 47302. If you wish to make an online donation in Dave’s memory, visit www.modelaircraft.org/donate.

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