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Richard Mather

Richard Scarritt Mather of Santa Cruz passed away at his home on January 22, 2010, after a lengthy illness, surrounded by his family, having led a full, rich and rewarding life. Happy to have made it well into his ninth decade, he leaves his many loved ones with an inspiring legacy of his genuine passion for life.

A Fulbright scholar and professor of European Medieval history at UC Santa Cruz, he was one of the founding professors of the history department. He loved his subject and spent a good deal of time in Italy, both as a researcher and a resident, studying in the archives of the Vatican, translating obscure accounts of war from Latin to English while enjoying the history, language, music and architecture he had come to love.

As a professor, he took his role as advisor at the University very seriously. He always made time for his students and willingly offered advice about their academic life and future careers. Richard was an eclectic, unique individual who could recite prose from Shakespeare to Rilke while expounding on the principles of Socratic society. A Conscientious Objector during World War II, he worked as a psychiatric technician in a mental hospital, which he called one of the richest and most important periods in his life, crediting the inmates with teaching him more than he learned as a University student.

While studying for his doctorate at U.C. Berkeley, he earned his living as a carpenter. In his later years, he built furniture, typically in Shaker style out of cherry. He also enjoyed collecting artwork, from Chinese pots to Japanese prints and Indian rugs. A great traveler, he traveled to India several times and lived briefly in South Africa with Anu, his recent wife and longtime companion. An excellent cook, he loved to create dishes made from local seafood, such as mussels scoured from neighborhood beaches, while listening to his beloved opera or classical music. He also took pleasure in good game of chess, preferably with his grandsons, David and Derrick.

Richard took up yoga when he was 75 years old. He liked to swim at the local beach, usually, to the consternation of his neighbors, in his birthday suit. He spent his final year of life remodeling his beloved house and installing a Japanese Zen garden in his backyard, where he and Anu were married last October.

Richard is survived by his wife, Anu, and his four children: Christine Clayworth and David Mather of Santa Cruz, Tim Mather of Oakland, and Cynthia Mather of Los Angeles, and their respective families.

Plans for a private celebration of Richard's life are pending.


Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Feb. 24, 2010
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