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Community mourns Clayton auto dealer Steve Matthews

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Steve Matthews, 59, owner of Matthews Motors in Clayton, Goldsboro and Wilmington, died Aug. 13 at a home in Carolina Beach.

Known in television commercials as “The Walkin’ Man’s Friend,” Matthews is survived by his wife Dale, son Tyler and daughter Morgan. The family often appeared with Matthews in his commercials.

According to WWAY-TV in Wilmington, Carolina Beach police said Matthews was found unresponsive in a swimming pool located behind a home on the 200 block of Florida Avenue in Carolina Beach. His cause of death has not been determined.

“The town of Clayton is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Matthews. His contributions to Clayton have had an tremendous impact on Clayton. Steve Matthews believed in being of help and in service to others,” said Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod. “He has touched so many people here and his leadership and contributions will never be forgotten. He always gave his best to whatever he was doing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Matthews family both today and the days to come.”

Johnston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ted Godwin also praised Matthews.

“Steve and I served together on the Jo Co Education Foundation board,” said Godwin. “He threw himself into every organization he participated in. He stepped up to chair the JoCo Teen Drivers program when we needed someone to take the reins. His commitment to Clayton and the county was 100%.”

JoCo Teen Drivers is a peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers. The Johnston County Education Foundation provides mini-grants for classroom projects.

“JoCo Teen Drivers is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our former chairman, Steve Matthews,” said Paulette Williams. “While under his leadership, the committee was challenged to think outside the box and look for innovative ways to inform youth of the risks associated with distracted driving. His mission was simple: Whatever it takes to keep teens safe while traveling on the road. Steve Matthews will be greatly missed by students and steering committee members of JoCo Teen Drivers.”

Matthews Motors received the Clayton Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award.

“Steve Matthews was very supportive of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and the business community as a whole and was admired for his entrepreneurial spirit,” said Dana Wooten, the chamber’s president and CEO. “He was Clayton Chamber of Commerce’s chair in 2006 and Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2015. Steve will certainly be missed.”

Matthews graduated from Eastern Wayne High School in Goldsboro. He attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and N.C. State University.

Matthews and his wife opened Matthews Motors in Clayton with three cars and a boat. They later expanded to locations in Goldsboro and Wilmington. He was awarded many personal, community and professional awards in his 25 years in the car industry. Most recently, Matthews was named president of the Carolinas Independent Automobile Dealers Association.

His memorial service was scheduled Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. The family requested donations be made in Matthews’ memory to Clayton Area Ministries.