Matthews cooked up book in spite of stroke

By Don McAlavy

John Matthews’ life suddenly changed in 1984 when suffered his first serious stroke.

Then 55, Matthews had been a full-time youth and music minister. Bu the major impact of his stroke was visual impairment.

“After that stroke I couldn’t lead music, couldn’t drive; so I started looking around for what I could do,” Matthews said. “It all started with an article in a 1985 Fortune magazine. It said the best bet to invest in would be a Mexican fast-food chain because the popularity of Mexican food was crossing the Mississippi into the eastern half of the United States, and even going overseas,” Matthews said.

Matthews hit on the idea of compiling and publishing a Mexican food cookbook.

He started looking for sources of Mexican food recipes and tried a couple of local organizations, but they weren’t interested.

“I thought of the Clovis Capitol Cowbelles, and they were thrilled to death,” Matthews said. “They got their statewide organization involved, and they supplied about 3,000 recipes for my book. In fact I had enough recipes for two more cookbooks, volumes two and three.”

Viola Jeffers, who was secretary for the organization at the time, collected and compiled the bulk of the recipes. A list of all the New Mexico Cowbelles were in the first four pages prior to the recipes.

“They received 50 cents a book on every book that was sold, no matter how it was sold,” Matthews said.

In order to publish the book, Matthews and his wife Sharon started a publishing company, SonWest Publishers, and through it, he published, promoted and distributed the books.

John and Sharon Matthews chose Clovis’ oldest printing company, City Printing, Inc., to print 10,000 books containing 308 pages of Mexican food recipes.

“David Rael and Don McAlavy and crew did the artwork, layout, cover, design, promotion, printing and binding,” Sharon Matthews said.

But John Matthews had a major stroke on June 27, 1988, and later underwent quintuple-bypass open-heart surgery. The stroke paralyzed his right side, he could not speak, and his vision was worse.

“It was such a frustrating and helpless feeling,” John Matthews said.

The ordeal caused the cookbook sales to suffer. My objective was simply to survive,” he said. “I had Sharon and others trying their best, but things got complicated by further health complications.”

John Matthews had planned to write other books. One a smaller, lighthearted cookbook entitled “Oh Lord, The Preachers Are Coming!” He also wanted to produce a six-cassette tape album entitled, “What They Don’t Teach You in College or Seminary About Youth Ministry, or, “Where the Water Hits the Wheel.”

On Father’s Day, Matthews presented the last of his cookbooks free to all fathers at the Central Baptist Church.

No matter what has happened, no matter what troubles, John Matthews has always kept a smile on his face. He has always been quick to cheer up and boost others.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: