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Farewell to the coach

  • Clarence De Mattei

    Clarence De Mattei

updated: 3/2/2018 5:09 PM

Clarence De Mattei, 87, passed away at 3:42 a.m. Thursday, March 1, 2018, at Heartland Regional Medical Center.

Clarence was born in his home in Benton, IL on July 10, 1930, to Aldo Giuseppe Angelo (Joe) and Ernestine (Lovati) De Mattei from Cuggiono, Milano, Italy.

He graduated from Benton High School in 1948 and enlisted in the Navy. He returned and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Southern Illinois University in 1952.

His passions were woodworking, craftsmanship, drafting, construction and athletics, and he had a positive impact on hundreds of students, athletes and colleagues. He married his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Mary Jean O'Hara De Mattei, in 1954. He was blessed with six children, eight grandchildren, and a great-grandbaby soon to be born. Clarence relished every minute that he spent with his family.

Clarence was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Jean, after 63 years of marriage. He is also preceded in death by his parents; his sister Theresa (De Mattei) and her husband William Barminski; sister Josephine (De Mattei) and her husband Richard Nash; brother Aldo De Mattei; brother William "Chick" De Mattei and his wife Vera (Austin); and a nephew, Tommy Barminiski.

He is survived by many beloved family members including son J.J. and his wife, Teresa, of Centralia; son Clay and his wife, Lety, of Marion; son Mike and his wife, Ronda, of Marion; daughter Gina Crippen and her husband, Larry of Mooresville, North Carolina; son John of Berthoud, Colorado; and daughter Jenna Fletcher and her husband, John, of Marion.

Grandchildren are Brad and (Britni) De Mattei of Manchester, Missouri; Bryan and (Kellee) De Mattei of Marion; Emily De Mattei of Marion; Brody De Mattei of St. Louis, Missouri; Kevin Crippen of Kannapolis, North Carolina; Clay and (McKenzie) Crippen of Athens, Georgia; Caroline Fletcher of Marion; and David Fletcher of Marion. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

Clarence was a faithful member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marion for 63 years and frequented the 8 a.m. service at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Herrin. He was of member of the Knights of Columbus # 8210, a blood donor for the American Red Cross for many years, and a member of the Illinois Retired Teacher's Association (IRTA).

Clarence was a member and volunteer at the Williamson County Historical Museum in Marion. He created several historical displays for the museum with the Southern Illinois Coal artifacts being one of the most extensive projects.

Clarence helped restore the Williamson County Jail and was instrumental with its enlistment on the National Register of Historic Places for its original architecture and has helped other historic properties be listed too.

He was a lifetime member of the Local Carpenters Union and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and he has been a member at the Old Marion Country Club for 48 years where he and his family spent many hours picnicking, swimming, fishing, and hunting. Clarence's informal card-playing group -- the "Raccoon Club" -- enjoyed the Marion Country Club too.

Clarence (or "Clay" or "Coach" as many call him) was a teacher, coach and Athletic Director for Marion Unit 2 for 35 years. He was a Marion Wildcat fan and watched, listened to, and read about Marion athletics for 65 years.

As a football coach he helped build a winning dynasty at Marion High School. The members of his 1963 undefeated team were still in contact with him today. In his role as athletic director, he was instrumental in establishing new sports at Marion High School and helped lead the way for girls' sports in the 60s and 70s.

In the classroom, he provided his students with skills that they would be able to use for life.

Clarence, Clay, or Coach, he was a legend for Marion Wildcat Athletics. His efforts did not stop at church, home and work, he used his skills to help community efforts. He was always generous to people who seemed to be "down on their luck."

Clarence enjoyed teaching, coaching, building houses, woodworking jobs, repairs, sports, yard work, and many collections. For 63 years, he and his wife worked side by side to fulfill their dreams. Besides raising six children and eight grandchildren, together they built or remodeled all of their children's homes, and spent 10 years restoring and preserving their historic Stotlar-De Mattei Home in Marion.

Clarence attended his children's and grandchildren's athletic events and other extracurricular events without fail. If there was not a local athletic event on a certain day, it was sure that he was watching it on television or listening on the radio.

Clarence's wife, children, grandchildren, and many beloved family, friends and former students and athletes made his life fulfilling. He will be cherished and his legacy as a Christian, husband, father, grandfather, friend and coach will live on.

The funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 8, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marion, with Monsignor Thomas Flach officiating. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. Military rites will be presented by members of the Marion VFW Post #1301, American Legion Post #147 and the Navy Flag Detail Unit. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday evening at Mitchell-Hughes Funeral Home.

Memorials may be made to the Mary Jean and Clarence De Mattei Elite 8 Marion Unit 2 Foundation Scholarship or the Williamson County Historical Museum in Marion. Envelopes will be available at the church or by mail to Mitchell-Hughes Funeral Home, 800 N. Market St., Marion, Illinois 62959.

For additional information or to sign the guest memorial register visit

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