There were blue, green, purple, orange and red shirts. A little bit of yellow in the corner. All signified a wing of the family. The extended Matthys family was becoming reacquainted, all 280 of them who came to reunion dinner, which was the 50th reunion.
It was a two-day event complete with golf, picnic, raffles, a memorial Mass and dinner at Holy Family Catholic Church.
Family member Eleanor DeGraff said earlier in the week there was great excitement for the weekend. She was sure she wasn’t going to know everyone who was coming. And how could she? By last count there were roughly 720 relatives, and about 75 percent of that number are still in the area.
The Matthys name is well known around St. Joseph County. There is Matthys Farm Market, Shady Lane Farm and Morris Matthys Little League. Other family members are in a variety of businesses such as Ginger Valley Nursery and J.R. Fox Jewelers.
It all started with Henry and Marie Matthys. Henry came from Belgium in 1906 and worked to bring his wife and four children over from the old country a year later. Eleanor said Henry decided to come to the U.S., while a brother remained in Belgium. It was a race, of sorts, to see who came out better financially.
Eleanor said the Belgian community was strong in South Bend with several other families here. Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Thomas Street welcomed the Belgian immigrants. Sacred Heart closed in 1973 and became Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
Henry and Marie had nine children – Maurice, Marie, Cyril, Achiel, Angela, Martha, Rene, Margaret and Raymond. Marie died during the influenza outbreak in 1918. As the family grew, Henry built a house on Crumstown Highway, which still stands on the grounds of the farm market.
Eleanor said there were 43 grandchildren and she didn’t know how many great-grandchildren.
Eleanor is the daughter of Martha…