Bridge dedicated to John Paul Mathes 1 year after his death

Published 8:45 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

“I know he’s watching down on us today, and he’s tickled to death.”

Those words were shared by J.P. Mathes during a special dedication ceremony naming a bridge in the Dennis Cove community in memory of his father, the late John Paul Mathes.

The bridge on Dennis Cove Road crosses the Laurel Fork Creek and is near where John Paul Mathes lived at the time of his death.

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The Carter County Commission voted in January to name the bridge in memory of John Paul Mathes and on Friday evening a special ceremony was held to dedicate the bridge and unveil the sign.

John Paul Mathes and his wife, Robin Musselwhite, lost their lives on July 8, 2016, when a tree fell on their campsite on Watauga Lake during a severe storm that passed through the region.

To kick off the dedication ceremony, J.P. Mathes and friends played bluegrass music next to the wrapped sign. After the music was over, J.P. Mathes spoke to the large crowd who gathered to honor his father.

“Tomorrow marks one year since this happened,” J.P. Mathes said. “My goal was to have this done before that passed.”

While having a bridge named in memory of his father is a loving tribute the family appreciates, J.P. Mathes encouraged those in attendance to also keep his father’s memory alive in how they treat others and how they live their own lives.

“Always remember his spirit,” J.P. Mathes said. “Don’t feel down, because he never did. He wouldn’t want anyone standing here sobbing over him.”

“If you can have a good time, have a good time. If you can make somebody smile, then make somebody smile. That’s what he stood for,” he added. “He loved it up here. I know he’s watching down on us today, and he’s tickled to death.”

For more than 20 years of his life, John Paul Mathes served his community. He served two terms on the Carter County Commission before being elected to serve as Circuit Court Clerk. He served in that position for 16 years — a total of 4 terms — before retiring from the post in 2014.

In addition to his work as a public servant, John Paul Mathes was well-known as a spirited person who celebrated life every day and he shared that enthusiasm with everyone he met. In addition to his care-free spirit, many who knew him also noted he was a kind man who was respectful and courteous to everyone, regardless of their station in life.

Many also remember John Paul Mathes for his somewhat unusual campaign strategy when he set his sights on the office of Circuit Court Clerk. For several months he stood at busy intersections and along the side of streets and highways holding his campaign sign while he smiled and waved at motorists. It didn’t matter what the weather was, John Paul Mathes stood out in the rain or snow with the same smile he had on his face on the sunny days.