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Mary H. Mathews

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Mary H. Mathews

Greenville

Mary Haynsworth Mathews, 94, died after a brief illness on Friday, May 6, 2011.

Daughter of Mrs. Madeline Bedell Haynsworth, Mary Haynsworth was born and grew up in Greenville, S.C. Her lifelong passion for the performing arts was kindled in childhood. At age 15 when a senior at Greenville High School, she wrote a one-act play based on the short poem "The Mountain Woman" by Dubose Heywood, author of the book and the libretto for "Porgy and Bess." She acted in the play which was performed several times in Greenville, including a special performance for Dubose Heywood and his wife Dorothy who came up from Charleston to see it.

She attended Winthrop College, and in 1937 graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Drama and acted with the Carolina Playmakers at UNC. Her professional career was launched in 1937 when she performed in the first production of "The Lost Colony" at Roanoke Island.

In 1938 she won a scholarship to the Chekhov Theatre Studio in England, directed by Michael Chekhov, nephew of Anton Chekhov. In 1939 the Chekhov Theatre moved to the United States and was located in Ridgefield, Connecticut. For the next several years the company toured the eastern half of the country. During this time she appeared in two Broadway productions of the company, including "Twelfth Night" in 1941 where she played the part of Maria. In 1943 and 1944 she acted in summer stock companies - primarily in the theater in Olney, Maryland.

In 1945 she joined the American Red Cross and served in England, France, and Germany. She was a doughnut girl in the Clubmobile in Le Havre, France, where they met every plane, train, and ship that came or went. She also served in a club on several airbases - the GI's liked coffee and doughnuts, but they liked jitterbugging more. After World War II was over, she was stationed in Germany and ran a Clubmobile. In the little country towns there was nothing for the soldiers to do, so they were always very happy to see the Red Cross volunteers arrive.

After her return to the United States in 1946, she joined the Broadway show "The Big People." She played the character of a "little person" who was the wife of a "big person" played by George Mathews.

The play was a flop, but the romance was on. Mary Haynsworth and George Mathews were married in 1951.

For many years they traveled extensively, with trips to Hollywood, England, Ireland, France, and Greece for Mr. Mathews' performances in movies and on stage. They always made time to come to Greenville - during one of their trips Mrs. Mathews starred in the Greenville Little Theatre production of "Harvey."

In 1974 when Mr. Mathews retired, they moved from New York City to Caesar's Head and settled into the mountain community stretching between Caesar's Head and Brevard, N.C. When her husband died in 1984, Mrs. Mathews continued to live in her mountain home overlooking the "Dismal" foothills with Table Rock in the distance. She loved life, loved her friends, and loved her cats, including the many strays that came to her door. Her special community service, performed for over 35 years, was to collect and distribute bread to the needy through the Sharing House in Brevard. Her last theater performance was at the Greenville Little Theatre starring in "Love Letters" with E.G. Marshall.

In addition to theater, Mrs. Mathews was also a life-long dancer. She studied dance with members of the Martha Graham Group and with Charles Weidman, starting in 1937. Her own modern-dance teaching career began while she was still playing in "The Lost Colony." She taught dance for 69 years, including a series of classes in Brevard and Greenville.

In 2006 , Mrs. Mathews moved down from the mountains to live with her niece, Mary de Monterey, in Greenville. Mrs. Mathews is survived by her sister Madeline Haynsworth Chandler; her niece Mary de Monterey; her nephew Allen Chandler, his wife Terry, and daughters Amy and Allison; her nephew Walt Chandler, his wife Ann, and daughter Anna; her niece Eve Chandler; and niece Madeline Fletcher, her husband Parrish, and daughter Madeline.

There will be a graveside service on Monday, May 9 at 3:00 pm at Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville, S.C. Following the service the family will receive friends at the home of Walt and Ann Chandler, 123 Ashford Avenue, in Greenville.

The Mackey Mortuary, 311 Century Drive.

Published in The Greenville News from May 7 to May 8, 2011
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