Four hours after Yvonne Mathews’ husband died, she slipped into a diabetic coma and was rushed to the hospital. Six days later, after more than six decades of life alongside Napoleon Mathews, she died.
“It’s like they couldn’t live without each other,” says their son-in-law, Lonell Goodman. “It’s like she was waiting on him and it’s like he looked over and told her, ‘I’m ready to go,’ and she said, ‘Well you go first and I’ll follow.’ ”
To me, it’s almost like a storybook.
The couple were inseparable, family says, even as Mrs. Mathews’ health declined in a convalescent home in Tulare. Mr. Mathews, who was living down the street at a residence for senior citizens, visited her daily.
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“He didn’t miss a day – he didn’t miss one day,” Goodman recalls. “He would sit there with her all day.”
It was beautiful.
Lonell Goodman about Napoleon and Yvonne Mathews’ love for each other
Mr. Mathews was taken to the hospital for a bad infection about a week before he died at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia on Aug. 15 at age 83. Mrs. Mathews slipped into a coma several hours later in the early morning without being told her husband had died during the night.
She died Aug. 21 at age 82 in a hospital room on the same floor where her husband died. Goodman said both died at 2:05 a.m.
As she lay in a coma, Mrs. Mathews was never told that her husband died, but family believes she knew.
“It hurts – I miss them,” daughter Marie Goodman says. “But knowing they went together makes me feel better. It eases my pain.”
Napoleon and Yvonne Mathews started dating in 1953 as teenagers in Riverside after Napoleon mustered up the courage to talk to the beautiful woman he often watched walking down the street. They were later married and moved to Tulare in 1964, where they worked alongside each other processing and packaging cotton. Mr. Mathews operated a cotton gin, a machine that cleans and bales cotton, and Mrs. Mathews worked as a cotton sampler, packaging the product for shipment.
They had four children: Nathan, Leslie, Edward and Marie.
Marie Goodman says she’s thought of her parents every second since they died. There are many good memories. Family fishing trips and Mrs. Mathews’ tasty and creative cooking – including spaghetti tacos and “dandy funk,” a mixture of grits and short ribs – are among the favorites.
There was nothing they wouldn’t do for anybody, no matter what race, creed or color.
“They loved having fun,” Lonell Goodman says. “They loved laughter and being with family.”
Their work ethic, wisdom, generosity, integrity and love is also remembered with fondness.
Of their passing together, Marie Goodman points to fate and the strength of their bond.
“That’s the love they had.”
Napoleon and Yvonne Mathews
Born: May 19, 1934 (Napoleon) and Aug. 7, 1935 (Yvonne)
Died: Aug. 15, 2017 (Napoleon) and Aug. 21, 2017 (Yvonne)
Occupation: Cotton gin operator (Napoleon) and cotton sampler (Yvonne)
Survivors: Children Nathan Mathews, Leslie Mathews and Marie Goodman; preceded in death by son Edward Mathews; 16 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; Napoleon’s sister, Elma; and Yvonne’s sisters, Della and Barbara.
Memorial service: 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1 at Living Christ Church, 2516 N. M St., Tulare.