Posted on Aug 09, 2023
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Past President John Mathers. John joined Rotary on March 1, 2011 and became our Club's president in 2017-2018. He had served as Club Treasurer before becoming Club President. He was also active on the Board of the San Francisco Rotary Foundation. See 2021 story here. In Rotary District 5150, John had served as Youth Service Chair and Organizational Development Chair. You can read more about John in this 2016 profile
However, John is best known and now remembered for spearheading the Rotary Climate Action Team to raise awareness of the dangerous effects of climate change. His efforts began at the Club level but soon spread Districtwide and worldwide. John touched the life of every Rotarian and human whom he had encountered. 
When not engaged in Rotary, John was a business advisor and executive coach with eVo Associates in Mill Valley, California. The focus of his work was on enhancing team and organization performance, which equated to increased productivity and satisfaction. John captured his experience in various industry-specific articles and two books on building high performance teams and the crisis of leadership in the 21st century.
John will be greatly missed by all, but especially by his wife of 37 years - Peggy; his daughters Nicole, Ursula, and Lara; his grandchildren Elsa, Anya, Adrian, Damiano, Julien, Maya, Alfi, and Sufi; his sons-in-law Matteo and Aamir; his brothers, William and Michael (wife Petra), and his sisters Myra (husband Bob), Ursula (husband Chad), and Anne; and his sister-in-law Mary Suydam.
Photo Album
See here for a photo album prepared by Past President David Dye and Dora Dye. Take time to click on each photo and read the caption. If you were in the photo, enjoy the memories with John. If you were not in the photo, see how John made the world a better place and touched all of us. We love you, John, and deeply miss you.
Sharing Some Memories of John
Here are memories from some of our members:
John MathersJohn was my partner in the launch of our Club’s DEI Committee. I wouldn’t have had the energy to focus on DEI issues for our Club without his support, assistance, and friendship.
~ Scott Plakun (2009-2010 Club President)
President John Mathers honored Laine Hendricks for serving as a first responder in the North Bay fires.There are so many words one could use to describe John Mathers, but if I had to pick just one, passion would rise to the top. John did everything with his whole self, from process improvement within the Rotary organization, to scaling up projects and tackling tough issues such as climate change. His quick wit and fun-loving attitude (and love of costumes or unique apparel) made him a delight to be around. Yet, one of my most vivid and fond memories of John was not a silly moment, but a very tense conversation during a board meeting over a decade ago. In sum, John called out the behavior of a Club leader that didn’t meet the Four-Way Test. It was a very heated and uncomfortable moment, but it was clear it was driven by his passion for being fair, honest, and treating all people with dignity and respect. I was new to the Board at the time, and it left a positive impression on me as a growing leader in our Club to be brave enough to stand up for what you believe in and to apply the Four-Way Test in everything we do to ensure no member is treated unfairly. I know his leadership of our Club will be positively felt for many, many years to come.
~ Laine Hendricks (2014-2015 Club President and 2023-2024 District 5150 Governor)
March 2015: Visiting RYLA's new camp in Scotts Valley.I have known John Mathers for over 10 years. John had a big personality. I remember his elaborate outfits. It was never surprising to see him in a Stetson hat, a Panama hat, a top hat, a kilt, a Japanese kimono, or dressed to the nines in a tuxedo. I first really got to know John at RYLA. He loved being a camp counselor, mentoring and working with youth. He was so dedicated to RYLA that, even when he could not return as a counselor, he would come down to visit as a representative of the Rotary Club of San Francisco or in some other capacity. His last visit to RYLA was a year ago when he led sessions on climate change. His dedication to youth extended beyond RYLA. Through his involvement in the Rotary Climate Action Team (RCAT), he sought out opportunities to give presentations to youth involved in other Rotary youth programs like Interact. Working with youth gave him such joy that you could see it in his big, bright smile.
~ David Dye (2016-2017 Club President)
2019 Emergency Services Day celebration at the Poppen home : (seated l to r) are Rick Harrell, Laine Hendricks, and Ann Daugherty. (standing l to r) are John Mathers, David Dye, Stephanie Schmautz, Rhonda Poppen, Ryan Wilson, Frank Yoke, Emily Borland, and Scott PlakunThere’s an @sfrotary story behind this photo and it includes a tribute. We had just doubled the size of our annual Emergency Services Day event in February 2018, and we crammed into our small condo to celebrate. It means a lot, today in particular. You won’t find a better group of leaders . . . they are some of my dearest friends. We already miss you immensely, John - personal mentor, friend, and force! Left to right are John, David, Stephanie, me, Ryan, Frank, Emily, Scott (kneeling) Rick, Laine, Ann.
~ Rhonda Poppen (2018-2019 Club President)
John and Peggy at the 2019 Holiday PartyJohn was a walking example of the Four-Way Test. With his storied career in consulting, he brought fabulous consensus building to our Club and made sure every voice was given a chance to be heard. Some past presidents ride off into the sunset . . . but not John. He immediately dove into DEI (Is it Fair to All Concerned?) and created RCAT (Is it the Truth?). His passion for our planet was infectious! I’ll always be thankful for John’s mentorship and the creation of the Presidents' Council to foster support and continued encouragement for our Club leaders. I honestly wouldn’t have survived the presidency without John’s assistance! I would venture to say John Mathers was the most influential member of the Rotary Club of San Francisco of the last decade, as his participation in so many Club activities and leadership positions can attest. His humor, kindness, wonderful smile, and Fantastic Kilt will be sorely missed.
~ Casey Blair (2019-2020 Club President)
John at the 2017 Holiday PartyJohn Mathers always greeted me with "Hello, Handsome!" It was something that always put a smile on my face regardless of the day I was having. John was a mentor and one of my greatest champions when I accepted the role of Club President. I would study his decision making, demeanor, and poise and was impressed by how well he handled it all. From the creation of the Presidents' Council to the Rotary Climate Action Team (RCAT), and many other committees, John was an inventor and a WONDERFUL and FANTASTIC human being. These two adjectives would often be used by John when he described someone. At times, he would make me laugh because that person was neither WONDERFUL nor FANTASTIC. It would be easy to say that we lost John today, but with so many things we’ve gained from him, I'm confident he'll be with us for a very long time. John, I thank you for elevating my Rotary career and for showing me how to lead. I'll miss everything about you, but we promise to keep Peggy nearby. I won't say goodbye, so until we meet again . . . Handsome.
~ JT Forbus (2020-2021 Club President)
March 6, 2020 Pre-ballet dinner: Peggy Mathers, John Mathers, Maureen O'Shea, Dan Joraanstad, Peter Logan, Cecile Chiquette, Carla Walter, Rachel Kantosky, Erik Walter, Hana Xu Wang, and Bob Hermann and friends. One week later, the world sheltered in place.One of my personal stories of John is when I joined Rotary, John knew of my passion for healthcare services to the underserved and disadvantaged in our communities. John spoke of a project he and Elizabeth Whitney had worked on that didn’t fly in San Francisco. However, he heard of RotaCare, where I was volunteering at one of their clinics. John’s full encouragement, enthusiasm, and practical knowledge as I embarked on electronic technology implementation with RotaCare is not to be understated. John was fully supportive of my Rotary Project, checking in periodically when we went live clinic after clinic with this electronic technology. In a word, he “cared".
~ Bob Hermann (2023-2024 President-Elect)
June 2017: John Mathers dressed as Mark Twain to celebrate President David's completion of his year as president.Past President John followed Past President David Dye (my husband) in leading our Club. He was the first Club President to award me the Rotarian of the Month pin for January 2018 when I had only been a Rotarian for just over one year. I had the honor to collaborate with him for almost seven years. His intentions were always fair and of benefit to all concerned. There is another side to John - he always brought laughter to his audience. In this photo, John played Mark Twain to celebrate Past President David's completion of his term as Club President.
~ Dora Dye (2023-2024 Grindings Editor)
December 2016: John Mathers with Major Raymond Erickson-King at the annual Holiday Party at the Westin St. Francis HotelI’m so very sad to hear this. John was a very compassionate guy and will be missed by many. I am so glad I had a chance to know him.
~ Raymond R. Erickson-King (former member of our Club)
Dan Joraanstad and John MathersI had been working with John since he became our Club's President in 2017, and I was Vice President of Membership. John had this knack to draw out our visitors and new members in conversation, and they would be charmed and feel welcomed. He embraced every type of personality and character. He made every visitor feel empowered and glad that they were on hand to be a part of Rotary. John and I together made a habit of taking our new members out to lunch. One such new member was Sunny Singh. John drew Sunny out with ideas and enthusiasm, persuading him that our Club would welcome his ideas and leadership; today, Sunny is our Club President. When I became President of the San Francisco Rotary Foundation and throughout my time with the Foundation, I would turn to John for advice. When a troubling situation or knot arose, John would make a suggestion and then, like a knife through butter, the problem would be resolved. John had vast reservoirs of experience, talent, empathy, leadership, and affection. I miss him now and will always miss him. My sympathy to Peggy and his family for their loss of such an incredible guy.
~ Dan Joraanstad (Former Membership Chair and Past President of the San Francisco Rotary Foundation)