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EDWARD OWEN MATTHEWS

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EDWARD OWEN MATTHEWS Obituary
EDWARD OWEN MATTHEWS better known to the world as "Coots," one-half of the oil well firefighting team of Boots and Coots, passed away peacefully on March 31, 2010 in the company of his loving family. His down to earth personality, dry wit, colorful vocabulary and steadfast friendship will be missed by all of those lucky enough to be part of his life.On April 23, 1923, he was born to Lucille Epperson Matthews and AD Matthews. Coots was the middle child between his older brother, William, and his younger sister, Maurine. Early on, after countless rounds of a chin tickling game of "Cootsie, Cootsie Baby," his name became simply "Coots" --- a name by which he would be known for the rest of his life.Coots began work at the age of seven. At one time he had all three paper routes the Houston Chronicle, the Post and the Houston Press in his hometown of Porter, Texas. He delivered papers on foot until he saved $23 to buy a bicycle from Sears and Roebuck. That allowed him to add more inventory, and soon he was selling garden seeds, Cloverine salve, True Grit magazines and "Have A Bar" ice cream all from that bike.Coots graduated from New Caney High School in 1941. While at New Caney, he entered the contest to select a mascot for the school. Influenced by his father, who was Justice of the Peace for Montgomery County, and a strong sense of patriotism, he submitted the national symbol of pride the Eagle. After the student body vote, they became the New Caney Eagles. He was also a star athlete, being proclaimed by the Superintendent as "The best basketball player, we have ever turned out." He had the honor of representing his school in pole vault and shot put at the state track meet and playing on the state ranked basketball team.Upon graduation from high school, he attended the NYA school in Houston, a government sponsored technical school for kids who could not afford college. Coots trained to be a machinist and went to work for Reed Bit Company. However, WWII had begun; and he knew that he wanted to be a part of it. In October, 1942, he went to Ellington Field and enlisted in The United States Army Air Corps, later known as the US Air Force. He was sent to "gunners' school" in Las Vegas, Nevada. His entire class was selected as casualty replacements and soon he was on the Queen Mary being transported to England with 3,500 other American Soldiers. He was sent to the 96th Bombardment Group at Snetterton-Heath air base just outside of Norwich, Great Britain. To complete his tour, he was required to complete 25 missions. The average life expectancy of a gunner on a B-17 was 5 missions. He was now part of the 338th squadron and "The Miracle Tribe." His first mission found him ankle-deep in 50mm spent cartridges and ditched in the English Channel. He and his crew were also selected for Mission 115 on October 14, 1943. This became known as the Second Schweinfurt Raid, or "Black Thursday." In 18 minutes of intense and horrific fighting, sixty B-17s and six hundred crewmen were lost in what is considered the greatest one day air battle.Coots was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, a Purple Heart, two Presidential Unit Citations and the friendship of a group of men that would last a lifetime. Fighting for his country would deepen his pride in the United States and all for which she stands. If one word had to define Coots Matthews, it would be patriot. He would tell his family that traveling throughout the world reinforced his belief that the luckiest people on Earth are born in the United States of America.Upon his return home, armed with the GI Bill, he attended The University of Houston "for three days, until I found out how stupid I was." In truth, little money and no transportation sent him back into the work force. He opened a beer joint called "Cabin in the Pines" and he would tell you with great pride that he was the youngest person in the state of Texas to be issued a liquor license. While he was having a lot of fun, he was not making any money. In 1947, he sold his business and went to work for Halliburton. Coots worked for Halliburton for ten years as a roughneck, then cementer and finally a special tools operator. In 1957, Halliburton fired him over a dispute concerning his driving record. They said that he had wrecked seven cars in ten years, and they could no longer afford him. His version was that they worked him to death and he fell asleep at the wheelall seven times. During this time, he married Shannon "Mickey" Daugherty from Humble, Texas and his daughter, Sharon, and son, Mike, were born.While working for Halliburton, Coots crossed paths with Red Adair who worked for pioneer oil well firefighter, Myron Kinley. Red and Kemmie were next door neighbors to Coots' sister, Maurine, and her husband, Rush Johnson. Based on Coots' oil field experience and the recommendation of Red and Rush, he was hired by Kinley Company and the three became inseparable friends. Approximately a year after Coots came to work for Myron Kinley, he and Red quit. That day, they drove to the Tulsa Oil Show and began handing out literature that was the start of Red Adair Company. He said they were both scared and excited. Soon after, Boots left Mr. Kinley and joined them. Their first job as Red Adair Company was in Hull-Daisetta, Texas. The referral came from one of Coots' old friends from Halliburton. Their largest job was in 1961 in the Sahara Desert. It was nicknamed "The Devils Cigarette Lighter." The well was burning 750 feet high and losing 550 million cubic feet of gas a day. It could be seen from 100 miles away and burned from November 1961 until May 1962. It took five trips back and forth from Houston to the Sahara to assemble all of the necessary equipment. It was killed with eight hundred pounds of explosives and capped.In his personal life, he and Mickey divorced and he married Dorothy Candelier from Liberty, Texas. At this same time, the movie, "Hellfighters," starring John Wayne, was filmed based on their work in the oil fields. Coots was happy to be a technical advisor on the film as he valued the realistic portrayal of the fires.Coots worked for Red for twenty years until beginning his own company with partner Boots Hansen. After pondering several company names, they settled on the one with name recognition in the oil fields: Boots and Coots. They flipped a coin to see who would be president and Coots won so Boots' name got top billing. They opened their doors on January 1, 1978.In 1990, Boots and Coots, was the first oil well fire fighting company contacted by the Kuwaiti government after the Gulf War. At the end of February 1991, Boots and Coots arrived in Kuwait. It took months to assemble equipment and crews. At the completion of the job, they had capped 128 of the most difficult wells.In July of 1992, Boots and Coots sold their company. It continues to carry their name and be a leader in their industry. Many of "his boys" are still Oil Well Fire Fighters. After retirement, the Coots Matthews Ranch in La Pryor, Texas became his new office and job. Many treasured memories were made in South Texas with his entire family, especially with his son, Mike. As a man who appreciated the simple things in life, his favorite pastime was sitting in a rocking chair on his back porch.Coots loved golf and was a long time member of the Men's Golf Association at Atascocita Country Club in Humble, Texas, and Magnolia Ridge in Liberty, Texas. He claimed a seven handicap but owns numerous "dead ass last" trophies. He was a cowboy who loved horses and the Salt Grass Trail Ride. He was in every respect a part of "The Greatest Generation." Coots believed in wearing your shirt tucked in and your pants at your waist, respecti
Published in Houston Chronicle from Apr. 4 to Apr. 6, 2010
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