George Mattson, 88, Olympian, Crew Coach

Posted: November 17, 1997

George Mattson, 88, a former Olympic oarsman and longtime schoolboy crew coach and mentor, died of prostate cancer Saturday at his Upper Darby home.

Mr. Mattson began his rowing career at West Catholic High School, where he also was awarded varsity letters for football and track. In 1927, Mr. Mattson was the first captain of the West Catholic Crew, which won the prestigious Stotesbury Cup on the Schuylkill. Later that year, he was a member of the crew that won the National School Boy Regatta in Wyandotte, Mich.

After West Catholic, Mr. Mattson continued rowing for the Penn Athletic Association and participated in numerous American Henley Regattas here. In 1932, he was a member of the Penn A.C. four without coxswain, which won the National Rowing Championship in Philadelphia and went on to Los Angeles to represent the United States in the 1932 Olympics. Because of the illness of a crew member, the crew finished fourth.

In the 1940s, at the request of John B. Kelly Sr., Mr. Mattson began coaching schoolboys in the Boat House Row recreational programs and eventually returned to West Catholic as crew coach. He was also instrumental in starting the rowing program at St. Joseph's College.

His best-known coaching stint came in 1958 when he became the head crew coach for Monsignor Bonner High School, where he remained until 1970. Known for his emphasis on technique and discipline, Mr. Mattson developed numerous championship crews. While a no-nonsense taskmaster, Mr. Mattson was well-respected by all his oarsmen and was fondly referred to as ``George of the River.''

Joe Sweeney, who succeeded Mr. Mattson at Bonner, recalled his friend as being ``one of the true gentleman coaches of rowing.''

Mr. Mattson received numerous awards, including the George Morton Illman Award given by the Malta Boat Club in recognition of his lifelong contributions to rowing. He was a member of the Undine Barge Club and was inducted into the West Catholic, Pennsylvania and Delaware County Sports Halls of Fame.

For many years, Mr. Mattson was also a manager for the Red Lion moving and storage company.

One of his sons, Joseph, recalled that his father was ``a very dedicated family man who liked to create Rube Goldberg-type inventions.''

Mr. Mattson is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet Corr Mattson; his children, George A. Jr., Peter J., Christopher W., M. Linda Eyanson, M. Janet Danielson, Joseph T. and Anthony P.; and 19 grandchildren.

There will be a viewing at Donohue Funeral Home at 8401 West Chester Pike, Upper Darby, tomorrow from 7 to 9 p.m. and Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. A Funeral Mass will be said at St. Laurence Roman Catholic Church at 8245 West Chester Pike in Upper Darby at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Interment will follow at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery on Sproul Road in Springfield.

Donations in Mr. Mattson's memory may be made to the West Catholic High School or Monsignor Bonner High School Scholarship Funds.

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