Betwixt Code and Music

In Memoriam: Mark Mathew

May 13, 2017

My bride Melissa and I arrived in California today. We flew into Orange County’s John Wayne International Airport. After getting our nifty Toyota Corolla rental car, we headed directly to Newport Beach to hang out. My very favorite comedy show ever is “Arrested Development,” so I was excited to maybe see the Original Bluth frozen banana stand in person. Spoiler alert: not one there! However, we did see three dolphins playing near the pier!

I have learned some fun facts about Cali on this visit.

  • The FM 101.1 radio station has some fantastic jams, just like the one in Dallas…except the Big D version is 100% orchestral music!
  • You can order a combo at Del Taco and get french fries…this is unheard of in TX!
  • California has mountains! Very cool to see this after spending most of my life in Dallas.

On to my Dad…

My dad Mark Mathew passed away on Easter 2017 as a result of several long-standing health issues. As a Christian man who spent a long time playing in worship bands, this was a great day to arrive in heaven!

The story of how my mom, Elizabeth “Denise” Stephens, and my dad met and became smitten with one another is surely a good one. However, I do not have a good timeline on this due to conflicting stories and partial tales through the years. Some of the information herein is from both mom and dad, as well as my mom’s best friend from high school Valerie Chapman.

My mom was a student at Lloyd V. Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas when the two met. The magic between the two must have been spectacular because they were married on 9/27/1977 when my mom Denise was 16 years old and my dad was almost 21. When I pressed my mom’s friend Valerie about how this came to be, Val said that my grand-parents must have acquiesced because they knew that Denise was going to get married to Mark with or without their approval. It was best to keep her close by and let the newlyweds live together with them in the Dallas suburb of Garland. Valerie also said, “Your parents were SO ready to go to CA, to Haight Ashbury, but I know your grandparents wanted her to finish school.” My mom and dad were trying so hard to be good hippies!


Denise and Mark in their truck

Valerie goes on:

“Can you believe I remember what I wore at the wedding? I stood by your mom. Of course, I thought she was all grown up. Though she did seem to have a bit of an “old soul.” I remember your dad as having an easy smile, an easy laugh, and a desire to make people feel comfortable/happy. He was a big man even at that young age, and he was kind. He played guitar and sang really well. They had a band for a while … with Tommy? Mainly just jamming in the garage, I think. I think they finally moved to CA (or did he go back without her?) and things spiraled down. I didn’t stay real connected, because I’d gone off to college and was real wrapped up in my life there. What I do remember vividly was that when your parents were together, in the happy days, they loved each other very much. They were very connected, and seemed to have a real strong bond and understanding. Your mom was very supportive of him, in whatever way was needed… They did seem like soul mates at the time, and maybe your grandparents hoped there was a chance. …I can tell you that you came about out of a real, strong love. Your mom was excited about you. I bet you already knew that. 🙂

I know that they shared some great times. There are not many photographs from this time period, but the ones I have seen are full of smiles and good cheer. Something happened in Texas, and my dad took me to California to be near his parents in Buena Park. Or maybe they both went to California together. It gets fuzzy. In any case, things seemed to go downhill after they moved with me back to Cali.


Denise, Mark, and baby Michael

My mom Denise passed away on Christmas Eve 2012 after a life-long struggle with co-dependence and addiction. My parents sure celebrate their Christian holidays in a strange way, eh? Some of the artifacts left behind by my mom included several photographs from her Photography class at Berkner High School and just other general photos. Some of my favorites are included here.


April 1, 1977 in Dallas, TX - Dinner just before the first performance of Led Zeppelin’s final North American tour
left to right: Kim, Val, Mark, and Denise


March 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


February 17, 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


February 9, 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


February 7, 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


photo credit: Denise Stephens


photo credit: Denise Stephens


March 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


photo credit: Denise Stephens

Also among my mom’s things from high school was a book of song lyrics. Imagine for a moment being a kid pre-internet. Knowing the lyrics to a song meant listening to it and writing the words down. Mom has hundreds of song lyrics in her journals, most from known artists, lots from her or her friends. Some of these song lyrics appear to be written by my dad. Well, the by-line reads “Mark King,” but the last name is crossed out and replaced with “Mathew.” Did my dad fancy a pseudonym?

As fun as it is to focus on the past, to consider where we come from, what those ancestors were doing when they were our age…we would do well to think about the legacy left behind by those who came before us. I am my dad’s legacy. His other children—Stephen, Jennifer, Audrionna, Tyrene, Brittany, Tiffany—we are his legacy. His quick wit, his puns, his sense of creativity flow through his kids and grandkids to this very day. I truly regret not making more time to spend with my father while he was living, but the only thing to do now is honor his memory by spending time with the family we have left on earth. So much of my personality and traits come directly from my dad. I am so glad to be passing these great things down to my children, as well. Let’s make him proud of us!

I will let my dad Mark have the last word here. This was the final message he ever sent me in Facebook Messenger, dated January 8, 2017, and I think it really sums everything up nicely, don’t you?


Michael D. Mathew.

Written by Mike Mathew who lives and works in Dallas building useful things. Sometimes he posts on Mastodon. Mike also wears many hats at Presto Assistant where he is a co-founder, owner, and product engineer.