Cover photo for Dan Mitchell Matson's Obituary
Dan Mitchell Matson Profile Photo
1937 Dan 2023

Dan Mitchell Matson

June 12, 1937 — April 25, 2023

Danny Matson passed away on April 25, 2023. Truly one of a kind, he was the hospital patient who wore a dapper suit and hat instead of the usual smock, gathering all the medical staff around for friendly conversation. He had a long white beard and dressed for Halloween as a wizard called "Cleveland the Brown" and then transitioned to the persona of Santa for Christmas. For several years when he lived near a young family in Columbus, WI, he would shave off his beard at the end of December, so as not to confuse the neighbors' children into wondering why Santa hadn't returned to the North Pole.
Danny drew people to him with kindness, sly humor and occasional theatricality. Well known across the country at ragtime festivals as a passionate supporter, he collaborated with dozens of musicians to produce three albums of original music, which were given to everyone he knew. It was at one of these festivals that he met the man who would become his living kidney donor, drummer Danny Coots. The traits they shared included their first names, love of ragtime, blood type and suit size, making Mr. Coots the ideal beneficiary of all Mr. Matson's dandy suits.
As a young man, Danny studied mathematics at University of Wisconsin-Madison and then went on to obtain a PhD in Linguistics, where he met his future wife, Sue Olson. After they married, they lived for a time in India, where Danny worked on his dissertation.
They had two children, Elly (Patton) and Jill (Morenz). He was a gentle and supportive father who loved to teach his daughters and share his optimistic outlook on life. Danny and Sue had three grandchildren, Travis, Kyler and Calvin. Known as "Grampa," Danny reveled in the role. He had learned to sew as a young father and took it up again to make matching shirts for himself and his grandsons.
Danny grew up in Madison, the son of Roy Matson, editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, and Helen Laird Matson. He had an older brother, the late David Matson. By all accounts, they never fought and were close all their lives. In fact, they could frequently be heard across rooms and restaurants erupting in loud laughter. Their stepfather was Eugene McPhee, who married Helen after Roy passed away while Danny was in college.

Danny was a collector of old tools, ragtime CDs and diner-style dishware. He was an early adopter of anything made by Apple. A lifelong learner, he stayed curious and picked up many hobbies that he enjoyed.
Although he loved to read fiction, his daughters most remember the unabridged dictionary that stood on a stand in their childhood home. Whenever a question arose, they referred to the dictionary, two sets of encyclopedias or a thesaurus. Danny believed that it was better to learn how to find the answer to a question, rather than just being given the answer.
He spent the final year of his life at Noel Manor. Although Danny told his daughters he was ready to go, none of his family or friends were ready for it. He was the sweetest man any of them has ever met and was the embodiment of the word "kindness." His family is grateful he went peacefully and miss him dearly.

Informed Choice Funeral
& Cremation Alternatives
3325 E. Washington Ave. Madison
(608) 249-6758
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