WWII soldier Percy Mathews’s remains may have been found

Published 5:21 pm Sunday, January 31, 2016

Linda Davis Harrell, reference and genealogy librarian at the Andalusia Public Library, recently shared information of her communication with individuals interested in the burial and remains of Percy Clayton Mathews. Percy, a native of Andalusia, was serving in WW II as a Staff Sergeant in the Air Corp of the U.S. Army when his plane, a B-17 Bomber, was shot down on May 24, 1943, during a bombing raid in France.

Nancy (Folmar) Reykdal, a relative by marriage, and Jed Henry, an interested citizen, made contact through a posting on Ancestry.com of which both are subscribers. Jed had been involved earlier in locating another MIA soldier who had died in the same general area of France. He and Nancy worked together to identify a niece of Percy Mathews who later contacted the U.S. Army for assistance. Currently the process of DNA identification and potential return of remains is in the works.

Percy was reported to be “killed in action” when he went down with the plane. After leaving the bombing target, St. Naziaire, France, the plane was shot and disabled to the extent of crashing. Of the ten-man crew, Percy is the only one who did not parachute out, so he died in the crash. Of the other nine, five “bailed out,” but they were immediately taken as prisoners. Four managed to escape from the plane and evade the enemy. One of these was First Lieutenant Frank R. Perry. On August 29, 1946, Frank wrote a letter describing what happened during that tragic event.

Some buried remains have been discovered recently that appear to be that of SGT Percy Mathews. Records indicate that originally the remains included a flight jacket and other airman related materials. Some contend that in all likelihood, the remains were buried by the Brittons or Germans in the Brittony American Cemetery in St. James, France. Other statements name the site as the Cambridge American Cemetery. There is supporting evidence that the remains are those of Sgt. Percy Mathew even though the grave found bears the name of Perry Matthews. The variation of the names is easily understood with the records being made in a foreign county. A DNA test will be required to confirm the identity and for arrangements to be made for bringing Sgt. Mathews home for his final resting place.

Before enlisting in the military, Percy Mathews was married to Mary Maxine Cooke (1918-1992), daughter of Leamon Cooke and Ida A. Moore. The couple did not have any children born to them.

In the following paragraphs some of Percy’s family lineage will be presented. The earliest ancestor identified is Orren Jefferson Mathews who was married to Elmira Jane Folmar. They had a son named John Dee Mathews who was born in 1887 in Luverne, Crenshaw County. He was married in 1910 in Crenshaw County to Elsie Elizabeth “Bettie” McCormick (1893-1965), daughter of Merrida Taylor McCormick and Oney Elizabeth Williams. The couple moved to Pensacola, Fla., where they reared their family and were buried at their deaths. John Dee Mathews died in 1953, and Bettie, in 1965.

John Dee and Bettie Mathews reared the following seven children: Odessa Lena, b. 1911, d. 1999, m. (1) 1943 James Afton Germany Jr.(1898-1956) (2) 1968 Carl Theodore Johnson (1893-1974); Gerald Franklin, b. 1913, d. 1985, m. 1939 Rosetta Navene Walker (1919-2000) (2) Jean Bernice Spikes; Bonnie Vonnell, b. 1915, d. 2010, m. Marvin Ellis Tomberlin; Percy Clayton, 1918, d. 1943, m. Mary Maxine Cooke (1918-1992); Orren Jefferson II, b. 1921, d. 2009; Rose Marie, b. 1924, d. 2003, m. ? Martin; and William Howard, b. 1925, d. 1928.

The oldest child, Odessa Lena Mathews, was married first in 1943 to James Afton Germany Jr., son of James Afton Germany Sr. and Carrie Berry. He was born in 1890 in Dadeville, Ala. This couple did not have any children. Several years after James Afton’s death, Odessa was married to Carl Theodore Johnson.

The oldest son, Gerald Franklin Mathews, was married first in 1943 to Rosetta Navene Walker, a native of Andalusia and daughter of Johnny Walker and Lucile Bundy. During the next year, Gerald enlisted on March 25, 1944, at Ft. McPherson, Ga., to serve in the U.S. Army during WW II. He and Rosetta had one son, Gerald Tyrone Mathews, b. 1941, d. 1985, who married Freddie Jean Brunson, daughter of James Wilmouth Brunson and Beulah Jackson. Gerald Tyrone and Freddie had two daughters: Dana Lee, b. 1961, m. Donna Marie Branch; and Tammy Kaye, b. 1962, m. James Harley Sanders. This family resided in North Carolina, but Gerald Tyrone and Freddie were divorced in 1972.

Gerald Franklin Mathews was married second to Jean Bernice Spikes, and they had three children: Benny Franklin, b. 1946; Betty Sue, b. 1950, m. 1969 Clarence Lloyd “Buddy” Unger Jr., son of Clarence Lloyd Unger Sr. and Veronica Frances Messmer; and Bonnie, b. 1954, m. ? Brown.

The next daughter, Bonnie Vonnell Mathews, was married to Marvin Ellis Tomberlin (1905-1990), son of John Ellis Tomberlin and Donie Missouri Cook. Marvin was born in Pike County, Ala., and died in 1990 in the Town of Opp. Bonnie died in 2010 in Colorado, but her remains were brought back to Opp for burial. They reared two sons, Steve and Chuck.

Percy Clayton Mathews was the next son, who has been featured earlier in this story. He and his wife, Mary Maxine Cooke, did not have any children before his untimely death in 1943.

The next son, Orren Jefferson Mathews II, was born in Luverne and later resided in Pensacola. Early in 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy to render service during WW II. He began aboard the destroyer USS Dunlap (DD 384) and later that year, he was attached to Amphibious Force, South Pacific Landing Craft Flotillas. After the war ended, he chose to continue to serve his county in the U.S. Army as a sergeant from 1946 to 1948. Afterwards he worked in Civil Service at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola for 40 years.

Orren Jefferson Mathews was married in 1948 to Jessie Hamilton Duffee, daughter of Hamilton Green Duffee and Jessie Alva Goodloe. They reared two sons: Mark Edward, b. 1955, m. (1) 1980 Deborah Ann Cooper, divorced 1985 (2) 1986 Mary Beth Stevens. Orren had a daughter, Sandra Nicole, b. 1983, by his first wife, Deborah. He had two children by his second wife, Mary Beth, daughter of Lynn Jeffries Stevens and June Irene Poirier. They were Brian Geoffrey, b. 1987, and Ashley Nicole, b. 1989. Second son, Paul Thomas Mathews was married to Theresa May Davis, daughter of Murray Davis and Elzira Derosa. They reared two children: Colorinda, b. 1977; and Christopher Paul, b. 1984.


John Dee Mathews’s youngest daughter, Rose Marie, was married first to John A. Scott with whom she had one son, James Keith Scott, b. 1957, d. 1984, m. Cheryl Singley. James Keith and Cheryl had a daughter, Olivia Marie, b. 1979. Rosie Marie was next married to John Edward Martin.

The primary source for this writing was information collected by Linda Harrell, genealogy librarian at the Andalusia Public Library.

Anyone who may find an error in the above or additional information to share is encouraged to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.