Rome B. Matthews founded a West Baltimore church and also served as a marriage counselor.
Rome B. Matthews founded a West Baltimore church and also served as a marriage counselor. (HANDOUT / HANDOUT)

Rome B. Matthews, who founded a West Baltimore church and also served as a marriage counselor, died of heart disease Tuesday at St. Agnes Hospital.

The former Pulaski Street resident was 85.

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Born in Farmville, Va., he was the son of Otis Matthews, a farmer, and Cornelia Matthews.

He attended schools in Prospect, Va., and was a graduate of Robert Moton High School in Farmville.

He served in the Air Force during the Korean War, and was a personnel supervisor at Johnson Air Force Base in Japan.

After his military service, he joined his brothers, who had moved to Baltimore, and worked at Bethlehem Steel.

He worked 37 years at the Sparrows Point plant, rising to the position of quality-control worker. Family members said he was proud that he missed only one day of work at the plant during his time there, and would spend the night there during snowstorms.

He retired in 1993.

In the 1960s, while attending Christian Memorial Church, he became a Sunday school teacher and deacon.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Lynchburg Seminary, and later founded Christian Temple Baptist Church on Denison Street.

As the congregation grew, Mr. Matthews purchased a former variety store on West North Avenue, and church members renovated the new space for services. He became pastor emeritus in 2002.

"He was a good preacher, an excellent teacher, and he loved marriage counseling," said his wife, the Rev. Annette Sherman Matthews, pastor of Refuge Way of the Cross Church of Deliverance and a retired cosmetology instructor.

"He loved to help people know how to conduct themselves before and during marriage," she said. "He was humorous, and he had wise sayings. He could tell a joke and hold your attention."

She said her husband remained active in his ministry at her church until his health worsened.

He was also known as a family cook and baker. He made breakfasts of bacon and eggs, often accompanied with home-fried potatoes. His dinners included fish or short ribs and greens. Mr. Matthews enjoyed hunting and fishing with his brothers, and could prepare squirrel and rabbit dishes.

"He had a discriminating palate," said his wife. "He loved his food, and he could critique you on how to hold a knife so when you cut one of his cakes, it wouldn't crumb."

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"My father called himself 'The Baker' and he loved nothing more than baking cakes," said a daughter, Veronica "Ronnie" Matthews Carroll of Baltimore.

"He never used cake mixes, and he had labels made saying 'The Rev.'s Sweet Treats,' which he pasted onto the boxes he used for his cakes," said another daughter, Karen Matthews. "He was very professional. He was known for his pound cake and his crushed pineapple cake."

His daughters described him as a family man who welcomed three foster children into the home.

"He liked to keep an eye on the behavior of the boys in the neighborhood and keep them occupied," said Karen Matthews. "As a 40- or 50-year-old man he would challenge them to a race in the streets — and he'd win. They would be doing their best, but they were no match for him."

Services for Mr. Matthews will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at Christian Temple Baptist Church, 2109 W. North Ave.

In addition to his wife of 18 years and his daughters, survivors include another daughter, Marisa Matthews of Baltimore; two brothers, LeRoy Matthews of Farmville and Alexander Matthews of Waldorf; a sister, Celestine Morton of Farmville; two stepsons, James Harrison and Michael Harrison, both of Baltimore; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

His first wife of nearly 40 years, the former Dorothy Hilliard Matthews, a licensed practical nurse who assisted her husband at his church, died in 1996.

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