A Chadron native who died in March 2016 left a significant portion of his estate to benefit students who will be studying journalism and business at Chadron State College and the Chadron Youth Baseball Organization.
The benefactor is Craig Matthesen, a Chadron High and Chadron State graduate who obviously was a shrewd businessman and investor.
He designated the South Dakota Community Foundation to serve as the administrator of the estate. Jamie Farmen, the foundation’s community development coordinator, said that amount totals $1.86 million.
The Huron Community Foundation also was designated to receive funds from the estate.
Matthesen owned and operated Freeze Frame Video in Huron, where he resided for about 15 years. He also had video stores in Alliance and Mitchell and Brookings, S.D., for shorter periods of time. After moving from Huron, Matthesen lived in Las Vegas, Nev., and also owned a condominium in Hill City, S.D., at the time of his death at age 65.
Farmen said it is anticipated that initially about $15,000 will be available to Chadron State College for scholarships and approximately $10,000 to the Chadron baseball program. The first distributions will be made in 2018.
The gifts are to be made in perpetuity and are expected to increase, Farmen said.
Matthesen majored in psychology and had a minor in sociology at Chadron State, and took News and Feature Writing as a senior in the spring of 1974, apparently sparking his interest in journalism.
He was an avid sports fan who played baseball from Little League through the American Legion level as a youth. He also coached the Chadron Legion teams at least one year.
As he was nearing graduation from college, he was the sports editor of the Chadron Record. Later, he was a sportswriter for the Scottsbluff Star-Herald and an editor for newspapers at Tekamah, Neb., and Dickinson, N.D.
Craig was the youngest of three children born to Louie and Priscilla Matthesen. His sister Virginia and husband Larry Hagemeier live in Rochester, N.Y., and his brother Larry and wife Jean live in Custer, S.D. Both said they knew their brother had done well financially, but were surprised that his estate was so large.
Craig, who specified that his gift be called the Matthesen Family Fund, was not the first Matthesen to invest in the stock market. His brother said even their grandfather, a farmer in the Nisland, S.D., area, had purchased stocks such as Mobil Oil and Reynolds Tobacco decades ago.
Louie Matthesen, who operated a creamery at Second and King Streets in Chadron, also invested small amounts in stocks while they were still living at home, Virginia and Larry recall. When their parents died, the three shared an inheritance, but neither Virginia nor Larry was included in Craig’s estate planning.
“He told us that we didn’t need it and, fortunately, he was right,” Larry said. “He was his own man and left his estate to things he believed in. He has loved living in Huron, really enjoyed playing baseball and obviously thought he got a good education at Chadron State.”
Like others, Larry, describes his brother as “unique.”
“He could come across as gruff and sarcastic, but he also had a wonderful sense of humor and deep down had a big heart,” Larry said. “He was a risk-taker who knew when to get in and get out of businesses. He started the video stores when they were beginning to be a hot item and sold out when he saw DVDs coming along.”
Matthesen retired in 2000 at age 50 and frequently traveled during his 15 years of retirement. He visited Europe, attended the weddings for his niece in New York and nephew in California and major league baseball games in Boston and New York, primarily to watch the Yankees, his favorite team. In addition, he and lifelong friend Kevin Donohue attended several postseason college basketball tournaments.
His sister, Virginia, stated she felt he was a gifted photographer and journalist.
“He was very intelligent and had a special way with words,” he said. “I was amazed at the human interest newspaper stories he wrote.”
Shortly prior to his death, Craig had purchased a service station on the western outskirts of Rapid City and planned to expand it into a full-scale convenience store.
Sherry Douglas, associate vice president of student services and head of the scholarship committee at Chadron State, said the college appreciates Matthesen’s generosity and anticipates there will be numerous worthy applicants for the scholarships his gift will provide.
Matthesen specified that the scholarships be based, in part, on need, but that none of the recipients should receive more than one-half of their total cost of attending CSC that year. Since the college’s annual cost of attendance for tuition, fees and board and room is $13,700, it seems likely that more than one scholarship can be awarded each school year.
The funds for Chadron’s baseball program are unrestricted. Bob Tiensvold, chairman of Chadron Youth Baseball Organization, said the board members were elated when they heard about the contribution several weeks ago and were elated again when they learned the projected amount of the funding earlier this month.
“This will help our program immeasurably,” Tiensvold said. “We’re still thinking about the possibilities. We have some immediate needs and perhaps will also make some long-term capital improvements. Our program ranges from T-ball through Legion Seniors, so a lot of players will probably benefit through the years.”