John Arthur Matheson, 94, died Sunday, November 23, 2020 at Sheyenne Crossings Nursing Home in West Fargo, ND. John was born on August 25, 1926, in Breckenridge, MN to Harry S. and Selma (Ness) Matheson. He was the third of four children, including his older brother Virgil and sister Geraldine, and younger brother Harry. John had several stories to tell of his childhood, but the ones he loved to tell the most were about the adventures he had with his siblings on the river. After graduating from Breckenridge High School, he enlisted in the Marines (1945-1946) and participated in the occupation of Japan until his discharge. After returning home, John worked with his brother, Harry, in the family house moving business, Matheson Movers, and attended Concordia College in Moorhead MN where he obtain his teaching degree in 1959. He began working in the Mathematics Department at Pelican Rapids High School in Pelican Rapids, MN in 1959 and continued helping Harry move houses during the summers. On November 28, 1960 he married Elaine Hafner from Breckenridge, MN and they started their life together in Pelican Rapids. Not only did John became a husband to Elaine, but he became a father to her three children from her previous marriage, which was quite an undertaking. Her two sons, Gary and Scott, and her daughter, Luann, and John and Elaine had one son together, John David. John taught Algebra and Geometry in Pelican Rapids and was part of an excellent Mathematics department. Some students may remember his alligator pit and yard stick. John also was the timekeeper and ran the scoreboard at many sporting events over the years at the high school until his retirement in 1987. John and Elaine moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area after John’s retirement, but John still wanted to continue teaching so he worked in various positions over the next few years. In 2019 John was inducted into the Pelican Rapids Hall of Fame in recognition of his many years of dedicated service to Pelican Rapids schools. John loved ice fishing on Prairie Lake and enjoyed making pickled fish to share with everyone at school. He also really enjoyed a good game of Chess with his coworkers and after retiring he continued to play at Barnes and Noble with his fellow Chess enthusiasts. He is survived by his four children, Gary Hafner (Sandy) in Moorhead MN, Scott Hafner (Muriel) in Fergus Falls MN, Luann Hafner Gross in Fargo ND, and John David Matheson in Fargo ND; and his brother, Virgil Matheson, in Breckenridge MN; His seven grandchildren Michael Hafner and Lance Hafner in Moorhead, MN, Amanda Gross in Fargo ND; Kevin John (Melissa) in West Fargo ND, Stephen John (Kristi) in Pelican Rapids, MN , Eric John (Bridget) in Felton, MN, and Nathan John (Lori) in Missoula, MT; eight great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Preceding him in death is his wife Elaine, sister Geraldine and her husband Verle, his brother Harry, and his parents.

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  1. Our sympathies to the family. Dick really enjoyed teaching along with John in the Math/Science department in Pelican Rapids. He had many stories of the ‘dreaded yardstick”. Good times and good memories.

  2. Prayers for the family. I remember having him in Geometry and Algebra. He was a great teacher and he will be missed.

  3. I owe my career choice to John. He challenged me to be his first female student to become an engineer. The challenge of meeting this goal got me through some of my most difficult engineering classes. He was an incredible teacher and some of his lessons are still with me today.

  4. I have many good memories of Mr Matheson’s geometry and algebra classes. He always gave encouragement to become a engineer and drive a big Cadillac. I did not follow that career path but was more than prepared for all of my college math classes.

    I also see we share a birthday.

    My sympathy to the family.

  5. My sympathies to the families of Mr. Matheson. I have many fond memories from Algebra and Geometry class at Pelican Rapids High School: a tough, fun loving and soft hearted teacher. I remember him well and the lessons learned, not only math… Candy Dahl Class of 1965

    I also ended up being a teacher.

  6. Mr. Matheson was a great teacher and I remember the yardstick and the fingernails across the blackboard! He encouraged and helped so that we would have a better understanding all the way through the different math courses. He will be missed.

  7. John had a huge influence on my life. Because of him I became a math major and taught geometry in Mora, MN public schools for over 20 years. John was a great math teacher and challenged us to be our best.

  8. Mr. Matheson was one of the best teachers in PRHS. I had the privilege of being his student and also working with him. The meter stick across the desk, the nails across the chalk board and the semi driver shifting gears and he telling which gear the driver was going into are all fond memories. His smile and infectious laugh will always be remembered. I loved his visits back to the lounge after he retired from Pelican Rapids. The world has lost a great teacher, and friend. Blessed by the memory of John Matheson. Love and prayers are with his family.

  9. I am exceptionally grateful to have been given the privilege to know John and Elaine. John was an amazing teacher with a wonderful sense of humor. His unwavering support was appreciated throughout my high school days into my adulthood. John you are missed for your humor, your whistling, tender heart and strong sense of right and wrong.

  10. John was one of my favorite teachers. He was serious about the Math homework but was a fun teacher and made it such an enjoyable learning opportunity.

  11. Our sympathies to the family. Mr. Matheson was a great teacher in more than math. Always enjoyed his bouts with ‘communist’ chalk.

  12. My thoughts and prayers to the family. I was in his Geometry class in 1975/76 and he was a huge influence on my life by helping me understand and develop my skills in mathematics. I would go on to graduate from college with a degree in Physics and then on to a job as an Electrical Engineer. He would always tell me I should become an engineer and I am certain his counseling went a long ways in helping towards that goal. I’m not sure I even knew then what an engineer did but he was sure I would be good at it. He was a great person and we will all miss him dearly.

  13. I owe my whole career to Mr Mathason. He was a great teacher and a great role model for young men. He also could hit anyone in the class with an eraser when they needed it, he had a great arm. He made such an impact in so many of his students lifes.

  14. One day in math class, Mr. Matheson stopped by my desk and said “you’d be a fine engineer”. Well, I was heading to college, and I needed a major and had no idea…so I got an engineering degree! Not sure how good of an engineer I became but thankful for the path he pointed me to.

  15. Mr. Matheson was not only a great teacher but a great man. I enjoyed numerous hours fishing with him on Prairie lake while he lived out there. I always enjoyed seeing him at Concordia when he would show up to watch Pelican Tournament games after he moved to Fargo. He loved pelican Basketball. He was also at the 2009 State Basketball Championship game and was so proud. he will be missed.

  16. Sympathies to the family. John was a great teacher, memories of the alligator pit and yardstick. John would find us at the street fair in Fargo when we had the Shake Shack and visit. John came to the Class of 1967-40th class reunion when the temperature was in the 90’s. His pickled fish were a favorite in the teachers lounge. Paul and Judy Tabbut-class of 1967

  17. Mr Matheson was the one and only reason I took geometry. He was my heartthrob and then he went off and got married. Phyllis, Sandy and I drove in a blizzard to Breakenridge to go to his wedding. Can’t even imagine what he thought when he saw us arrive. Such a dear dear man. He will be missed.

  18. Mr Mathewson was my algebra teacher, I wish he would have gotten hold of me sooner in my student career, he maybe would have been able to develop a love of numbers in me. As it was I worked in the nuclear field during my time in the Navy which was all math! Thanks to him something rubbed off. He was a good man.
    My mother grew up and went to school with the Mathesons so I heard all the stories about life in Breckinridge MN.
    I thank him for being the person he was.

  19. Mr. Matheson, Mr. Polley, and others led an excellent math department. I think many students benefitted from their help in preparing us for college! We were fortunate to have such skilled and caring teachers preparing us for life.

  20. It is nice to see all the comments. My brother was a favorite student of his. My brother had a level of genius in math due largely to his learning difference. I didn’t understand this at the time but now with a son with dyslexia and a grandson with a very very high IQ due again to this learning difference I do understand. My brother is gone now and I truly miss him. Maybe he is with his former teacher talking away. I on the other hand was a very poor math student as I much preferred English and a love of books. But I have to say Mr. Mathison once said to me “you sure aren’t like your brother.” What a hurtful remark to make. I haven’t forgotten. 🤨

  21. Mr. Matheson was one of my favorite teachers in high school. He was kind and encouraging. He encouraged me in statistics and math. I was not particularly good in math or statistics, but he encouraged me to move and to persevere. He was a great guy and had a gift for teaching. Several years later in graduate school, I found myself frequently reflecting upon Mr. Matheson and his encouragement.

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