Thomas Matia, 86: Career path took him on a 63-year journey

From a career in the Navy, to a grocery store owner to an accountant, Thomas Matia had a resume that could easily kick-start an interesting conversation. But then there was how long he worked in all of those careers, which was one of the most interesting factoids of all: 63 years. The Naval Academy graduate treasured God, family and country, and made time for all three in his life.

"His degree was in electrical engineering," said his daughter-in-law, Mary Matia, of North Dallas, Texas. "But he was a very intelligent man and could do a number of things."

Thomas Edward Matia, of Dunwoody, died Saturday at Saint Joseph's Hospital, from complications of an abdominal infection. He was 86. A Funeral Mass will be Wednesday at 12 o'clock at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church. Interment will follow at Arlington Memorial Park.

After his graduation from the Academy in 1948, Mr. Matia planned to be a career Navy man. The death of his father, 11 years after he got started, took him back home to Ohio to run the family's grocery store, his daughter-in-law said. After working the family's store for a while, he took a job at U.S. Steel, as an accountant. In 1969, the company transferred him, and his family, to Atlanta, and soon after he decided to open his own accounting firm.

"He discovered he was good at accounting," Mrs. Matia said.

Thomas Matia finally retired in 2011, something his wife had been urging him to do for years, said Andy Matia, the eldest of five sons.

With a routine of work and home during the week and church on Sundays, Mr. Matia had time to teach his sons what he expected of them in life. Of all of the things he didn't tolerate, lies were at the top of his list, his son said.

"We knew we were to tell him the truth, no matter what," Andy Matia said. "It was my grandmother who told me the story about what he did his first year at the Naval Academy."

It wasn't something the elder Mr. Matia liked to discuss, but it was an example of him practicing what he preached. Risking expulsion, Mr. Matia told the truth about his role in an off-campus adventure, which was not allowed for first-year students.

"He was allowed to stay, but he got all of the demerits a guy could get in his first year and not be expelled," his son said. "They told him if he got one more demerit, he was out. I was most impressed by the story because he did what was right and dealt with the consequences."

In addition to his son, Mr. Matia is survived by his wife of 60 years, Theresa Matia; sons, Mark Matia, Paul M. Matia, Ted Matia, and Robert Matia all of metro Atlanta; brother, Jim Matia, of Ohio, and sisters, Ann Marie Watson, and Marge Chluda, all of Ohio; and 13 grandchildren.