Greenville News obituary
Rachel’s Favorite Hymn
Rachel’s Testimony, 2003
Tribute by Pastor Alan Cairns
Tribute by Melita Matzko
Rachel Matzko was an English teacher. Although we have no desire to be obnoxiously editorial, we hope you won’t mind if we tweak an occasional sentence in the interest of brevity or clarity.
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Rachel and I first became acquainted when we worked in the BJU Snack Shop. She more than likely had more confidence in her cooking than I did because she worked in the kitchen, and I waited on customers making milkshakes and dipping ice cream. Quite often we would walk back to the dorm together after work. When Wayne and I got married, Rachel and my little sister Brenda were my maids of honor.
I always knew Rachel would remember my birthday and our anniversary with a card and a nice long, newsy letter. Rachel was a dear friend to me. I loved to see her smile and to chat with her on the telephone. I will always remember Rachel’s love for travel and zest for living.
It has taken me a long time to write my memories of Rachel. One reason is that there are so many. We were 18 months apart and shared dolls, bedrooms, friends, and faith. We were the “little girls” in a family of seven: 5 sisters and 2 brothers. The big girls were Margaret and Arletta. Rachel and I grew up together. It was because of Rachel that I came to Bob Jones University, loved it, and graduated from it. I always admired Rachel’s self-discipline and dedication. She kept to a task until it was done. An example of that was the concern for her students that she demonstrated even after going through the trauma of brain surgery. Rachel was like that. She had a natural tendency to think of others first. She was always kind and considerate, making us feel welcome when we came to visit. She has finished the course, she has kept the faith. Surely there is laid up for her a crown of righteousness. She has laid the way for the rest of us into death and beyond, and she has done it with dignity and grace. (her middle name)
I wrote Rachel one last letter before she died, a letter she never read. I told her she was a wonderful sister and a true example of a Christian woman. I told her I would see her in heaven. I hope she knows what she meant to me. The last time I saw her, we were leaving after a visit of a week, a week that was bittersweet because of her obvious illness, and she prayed with us for a safe journey. Then the last thing she said was, “I love you!”
Rachel was my English tutorial teacher for either ENG 100 or 101. When I first learned of her cancer in 2002 I began praying for her. I never saw her as anything but positive in her outlook towards this affliction the Lord chose her to bear…always sweet and positive. I know she had to suffer from the treatments, but you would never know it. Rachel and her husband were great “encouragers” when we had a family member diagnosed with cancer. The last time I chatted with Rachel was in June right after we returned from Ukraine with our mission team. She didn’t want to discuss her situation but was concerned for others. I am thankful for the contact I’ve had with her through the years!
I have so many memories of Rachel, she was not only my sister but also my best friend who I could talk to for hours about anything. It was a joy just to be with her. I looked forward to any time we could spend together. Our day trips were always fun no matter what misadventures and bad weather we had. And our long road trips home were great in spite of my terror of the interstate and the tedium of sitting for hours. And Rachel made me things–pillows, pillowcases, t-shirts,earrings, a sweatshirt, a wonderfully warm fleece jacket, my birthday dinners, and the most special, a Christmas quilt. I was amazed that anyone would spend so much time to make something for me. I felt all the love that went into the things she made me and the care and time she spent choosing just the right gifts. I miss her every day but especially our phone calls and talking out my everyday problems with her–she was a great sister to me.
Mrs. Matzko was my teacher for English 103 last year. I learned so much from her, and I was able to get to know her a little bit. She had such a love for all of her students, and I could tell that she desired to do her very best for the Lord. I had no idea that she was suffering physically. I admire her character greatly.
I cannot remember exactly how Rachel and I met, but she and Sandy (Myrick) Baker and I traveled together in Europe for four weeks in 1969, the first time BJU ever offered study tours overseas. BJU didn’t fill the plane with people wanting to study, so they offered plane tickets for anyone on staff who wanted to go over and return on the plane. Rachel and Sandy and I thought that too good an offer to pass up, so we managed to scrape together enough money for an economy trip, renting a car on the continent for two weeks, then traveling through England and Scotland and back to Paris.
Rachel was always so sweet and accommodating, and we really had a wonderful time together. She and Sandy knew historical places better than I did, so it was especially nice to have their comments to help in deciding where to travel. I particularly remember our time in London where we got tickets to see the ballet “Swan Lake”. The only tickets left were obstructed view seats (usually, a pillar was in the way, but one could easily look around the pillar), so we all were separated for the performance. But what fun we had later talking about the nice people we had met and enjoyed.
I was quite blessed to have been able to travel with Rachel, and we enjoyed reading the Bible together and seeing so many wonderful things in seven countries of Europe. Since then, it has been fun to keep up with Rachel and Jack over the years and enjoy their adventures as tour guides at the Custis-Lee Mansion in Washington, etc. I was really happy that Rachel married Jack, who had been a friend of mine since our sophomore years at BJU. She and Jack were so kind to my husband and me in 2001 when we visited campus, he for the first time, and me for the first time in sixteen years.
I will miss not being able to see Rachel when I visit campus next time, but I will look forward to seeing her again in heaven. Then we will have lots of time to share memories and praise the Lord together for His graciousness to us over all our years.
We remember Rachel as a gentle person, supportive and encouraging. Even though she was highly educated, she never made folks uncomfortable–she was graceful.
Williston, North Dakota
I loved knowing Rachel’s kind tender heart for the Lord over the years I gave her chemotherapy–she loved her students, her teaching, her family and the Lord. She inspired many other patients in the chemo room who came in contact with her. Her life was a true testimony to many, and I will really miss her.
We were a family of seven children, the last two being twins. Burton Roger Smith is the oldest and the only one born in Nebraska. William “Billy” Howard Smith is the youngest. Five sisters fell between. Margaret and I were the “big sisters,” Althea and Rachel were the “little sisters,” and Lois and Billy were “the twins.”
I am four years older than my sister Rachel. Rachel acquired the nickname “Snookie,” Althea’s nickname was “Butch,” and I was “Toots.” As Rachel and Althea grew older, they didn’t want anything to do with those nicknames, but I’m still called Toots by close family and even old neighbors.
Now one of the sisters is not with us on this earth, and I am missing her very much. Although many miles separated us, she always kept in close contact with all of us. She was the only member of my family who sent personal e-mail messages. In fact, it was because of her encouragement that we bought a computer. Rachel was faithful in always writing letters–not forwarded mail–to me. That is what I will miss a lot. She sent a lot of pictures, and I watched Austin grow up through those pictures.
Because Rachel and Jack had different jobs during the summers, I looked forward to finding out what their next adventure would be. Rachel visited us often during the month of June, and we would have a family gathering when she came. Rachel did not dwell on her cancer during the past seven years, and my children did not know the seriousness of her illness.
Because Rachel taught English, I used to be self-conscious about how I composed my letters to her. That was until she complimented me by telling me that I had brought back the lost art of letter writing. But I remember a time when she went with Frank and me to a family reunion in Nebraska. She did not hesitate to correct me on my use of proper language. I have to laugh over that.
I remember feeling devastated for her when she told me about her cancer. She had always taken proper care of what she ate and exercised. Whenever someone would get sick in our large family, Rachel would not eat because she did not want to get sick.
I am missing my dear sister, but I know that she has a new and healthy body. I am slightly jealous.
Myron and I were saddened to hear of Rachel’s last illness and death. It isn’t death–it is life, glorious in heaven with her Savior Jesus Christ. My memory of Rachel is her teaching my 10th grade English class at BJA when I was a new student in 1972. The boys in our class were horribly immature and unfortunately gave her a really hard time. I think she was brave to put up with us all.
Most recently, our son Jeremiah had Rachel for his English 103 teacher in the spring of this year 2009. She was always there teaching, cheerfully in her place in spite of the cancer recurrence. Rachel has been a blessing to our family, and we are thankful for the memories.
Rachel was a very precious friend, although all I knew about her was that she liked to exercise with me and supported my TV ministry for many years. I was so grateful for that.
Rachel never shared with me that she had cancer. In my heart I felt Rachel was a very private person. She never wanted to burden me with her needs but only wanted to offer her support.
For the past thirty-nine years I knew Rachel as a friend and as the wife of a friend. Before the university changed financial arrangements for faculty and staff, Linda and I enjoyed the one o’clock lunch with Rachel and Jack for years. She had a great sense of humor, especially for stories that showed how pompous and silly people could be. We laughed at her stories and she would laugh at ours. Sometimes, I think, she worried that we were making too much noise in the dining common, but we, including Rachel, kept laughing anyway
My first memory of her, however, goes back to the summers of 1970 and 1971, when she was Rachel Smith, and along with George, Darlene, Boyd Peart, and myself, was part of the Bob Jones “diaspora” at Carl McIntire’s Bible Conference and resort in Cape May, New Jersey. We had the best summer jobs in the history of the world! We all worked at different places, and Rachel’s charge was to supervise Irish maids in housekeeping at the Windsor Hotel. That of course led to many funny stories. All of us enjoyed time at the beach (of course!), sight-seeing, and going to Kenneth Clark films at a restored Victorian house. The antics of wealthy, eccentric guests from Philadelphia kept us all amused. We actually survived two hurricanes. Rachel’s hotel was an old wooden structure, but it, and she, survived. George and I were foolish enough to go outside during the “eye” of one of the storms.
More recently I remember her heroic and courageous battle with cancer. Some days when I was not feeling well, struggling with severe allergies, I would walk by a classroom, and see Rachel teaching. What a rebuke to me. Rachel was very private and I don’t think she wanted our sympathy; she wanted our prayers, instead. We prayed for her and the Lord answered those prayers.
I remember seeing Mrs. Matzko many times each week when I worked at Circulation/Testing at the BJ library. She would come to drop off and pick up English quizzes at the Testing Center. Although I never had any long conversations with her, I was always struck by her cheerful attitude. Her strong character and determination amazed me; I still don’t know how she managed to continue teaching faithfully while undergoing treatments for cancer. Whenever I saw her, I was reminded that we can do “all things through Christ which strengtheneth” us (Phil. 4:13). Mrs. Matzko was a truly inspiring example of overcoming personal adversity through the Lord’s power. I look forward to seeing her again someday!
Rachel was a daughter-in-law who was as close as a daughter. She was thoughtful and brought me fruit and other tasty things when she visited on Friday evenings. We often went to weddings together, celebrated Christmas together, and enjoyed Sunday dinners at the Dining Common. We took trips and had picnic lunches with her sister Lois. Rachel stood in line to buy us play tickets and tickets for the Culinary Arts dinners. Rachel always made special meals for our birthdays, even when she was sick. We laughed together and even memorized Scripture together, like the first chapter of Hebrews that she was memorizing before she died. I will miss my daughter very much, but I know she is happy in heaven with the Lord!
Rachel was a wonderful testimony to the grace of God at work in a believer’s life. Even before her battle with cancer, she was an example of godliness and contentment. As she dealt with her illness, it was evident that His “strength was made perfect in weakness,” and that she was able to “delight herself in the Lord.”
She supported her husband and her family in their many and varied endeavors. She also loved organ music and was often at recitals on campus or in town to enjoy the music of The King of Instruments.
She is now rejoicing with Him, in whose “presence is fullness of joy.”
Ed and Pam Dunbar
It was a blessing to have Rachel as my office mate. One of my fears as I moved from the press to the university was with whom I would share an office. I need not have feared. God had the perfect person already chosen. I thank the Lord for the opportunity of knowing Rachel.
I am both honored and humbled to be able to relate the fact that never once in my life did I ever hear my Aunt Rachel speak unkindly about someone or to someone. What a special person she was! I thank the Lord that I was able to have her sweet influence on my life.
I saw Rachel in the hospital about three weeks before she passed. (My mother was in the same hospital two floors down!) I remember that although Rachel was weak, she was eager to visit. “You have beautiful red hair,” she said. “Really? I wish I had black hair.” Said Rachel, “Huh!…We are always wanting what others have.” I think I recognized in her comment the love and acceptance towards God that she carried throughout her illness.
She carried a smile in her heart and on her face. That’s what I remember.
We’ll always remember Rachel as a wonderful wife and mother, teacher, good cook, and a woman of sweet ways. Aunt Nancy
We will miss Rachel–her smile, her sweet spirit, and her love for the things of the Lord.
I so loved having Mrs. Matzko for English in ’97 and cherish the poetry she taught our class. A special comfort to me and Paul during the loss of one of our children to a miscarriage was the poem by Edward Taylor, “Upon Wedlock and Death of Children.” Mrs. Matzko had us write on it, and the Lord has used it over and over in my life.
I did not know Mrs. Matzko well apart from what I heard from her husband and from the occasional kind word that she spoke to me. But she was an example of perseverance to me as to many—of physical perseverance in spite of suffering, but also of the spiritual perseverance of the saints. Mrs. Matzko deserves those words of praise, “She hath done what she could.”
I will always remember Mrs. Matzko’s patience while explaining the importance of Oedipus Rex. I never knew her well, but I do remember her sense of humor and willingness to laugh at herself. She was always cheerful.
Rachel was a dear colleague and a wonderful example of the woman of Proverbs 31. She was very kind to me in my teaching days. And she made the best pies ever, making dessert at our department gatherings the highlight of the meal.
Mrs. Matzko’s kind and sweet spirit was a wonderful blessing and a testimony to God’s grace.
Mrs. Matzko had a definite imprint on my life as a freshman in 1988. I was a nervous wreck as a Bible major taking English at BJU. She went out of her way to encourage me in my writing in her tutorial class. I never knew I would later spend much time in my ministry writing papers, sermons, and other ministry related documents. God definitely used her in my life as a student at BJU. —Todd Daniel (BJU ’92)
I was an English major at BJU and studied American literature under Mrs. Matzko. I remember her fondly as a teacher with a pleasant and unassuming manner. As a faculty child, I could understand the awkwardness that faculty members might feel, teaching a student one hour and then eating with them in the Family Room the next. Close quarters can bring about a professional and detached exterior. However, Mrs. Matzko always spoke to me directly and sincerely—and that kindness stood out to me.
I remember also that your wife was known for her candy bowl. During tests she walked the aisles and handed out candy—what a treat to have candy legalized in class even for just one period!
All these years later, I too am an English teacher. I make it a point to speak to each student I pass in the hallway because I known how much that meant to me. I also give my students hard candy to help them focus during tests.
I am grateful to your wife for both the literature and the life lessons she taught me. Even 24 years after being in her classroom, I still remember her fondly.—Kathleen Ramsey Oloffo
I’ll always remember the summers we spent in North Dakota. They were a highlight of my life, and part of the reason was Rachel’s spirit. I always remember her smiling, no matter how high the pile of nails was.
I remember Rachel as just a kind, soft-spoken, gentle person, a true example of Christ.
I remember Rachel just as in the obituary picture, as I remember when you were dating. The words, “unpretentious resolve” perfectly describe her personality. She was one of the most self-effacing people I have ever known; and because of that quality which is so rare today, it was Christ whom we saw; His strength made perfect in her weakness daily. She never complained; she never sought or needed recognition. I talked to her often and marveled at her frankness about her condition, her being able to accept the Lord’s will for her with joy. She was my heroine; I know that no one could ever do alone what she was able to do by the grace of God. I will never forget her.
Rachel was as humble, kind and gentle Christian woman as you would ever meet and would be terribly embarrassed if she knew (maybe she does) that I was drawing attention to her in this way. Rachel dedicated her life to her family and the cause of Christian education, having taught English at BJU as long as I have known her. The Lord directed our attention to I Corinthians 2:9 to comfort us at this time of loss: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
It was a privilege to know Rachel, first as my Brit Lit teacher and then as a respected colleague. Her quiet competence and helpfulness to other are an ongoing legacy.—Blake Spence
Jansen Bible Church received one of the last e-mails that Rachel wrote, on June 27:
“Thank you all for the card with your expressions of concern and prayer support for me. It is humbling to think of you folks up in Nebraska remembering me down in South Carolina. I truly appreciate your ministry from afar. May the Lord bless you.”
The thrill of Rachel’s current experience above – it can’t be anything but beyond words. It reminds me of the description of 2 Cor. 12: 4 regarding the man who, “was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” Stunning! Your fellow servant,
[A check of Rachel’s e-mail accounts revealed this thank you for prayer to be the last written message Rachel composed and sent.-JM]
There is always that natural desire to drink in and witness the special grace given in trials when others are in deep waters we ourselves haven’t experienced. I asked Rachel how she managed, and she told me, “I just take one day at a time.” I can never picture her saying that without going straight to Matthew 6: 34. This was Rachel’s special gift to me, and I long ago lost count of how many times I have drawn upon it, always remembering her. It is a little priceless memento that I will forever carry with me.
It was my pleasure and privilege to see Rachel during those last couple of weeks. She still had her dry humor and the cute little mannerisms I remember so well.
Rachel was a kind, gentle, faithful person. She never failed to ask about my children, and I appreciated her interest. Rachel made the best pie crust, and she was a most genial dinner companion. Her faithfulness despite adversity will always be an encouragement and challenge to me.
The first time I met Rachel, she was Miss Smith to me, my advisor my freshman year of college at BJU. I had come from California, I knew no one, and I was very nervous and insecure, quite shy, and definitely needed guidance and direction. Miss Smith was very kind, extremely helpful and encouraging. She was my first contact with the faculty at BJU, and I was gratefully impressed. Several contacts that school year confirmed my early opinion that BJU and its faculty were people who cared.
Later when I joined the English faculty as a GA, I was again very nervous and insecure about my new responsibilities, and, once again, Rachel, now Matzko, stepped up to welcome me and help me through those early meetings and classes.
As the years progressed, Rachel has always been there for me. We both taught American literature and later Composition and Literature. She was always eager to talk about our classes, our teaching ideas and strategies. She never failed me when I needed a sub for one of my classes. Even as recently as two years ago when we had that ice storm during final exams, Rachel volunteered to proctor one of my early exams since she lived on campus and I did not. How many times has she helped me out with the fall English social—volunteering her refrigerator or oven or cooler or hands or you—to help? What will we do this year at our party without a homemade pie made by Rachel Matzko?
Rachel has touched my life in many quiet ways as she has touched so many others. She was the exemplary teacher—always diligent, always self-sacrificing, always thinking of what’s best for the student. I remember once standing in the hall in the Alumni Building discussing The Scarlet Letter. She had wanted some fresh ideas because she feared her teaching had become stale. I remember how honored I was that she would think my ideas might be worthy of consideration.
One of the highlights of recent years in our monthly English faculty meetings was Rachel’s testimony. She was so humble, so funny, so witty, so amazing. She told us about her childhood, her salvation, meeting you, marrying you—but it was told in such a delightful way. I wish we had recorded it. It was so perfectly Rachel.
She has shown her strength during these last years as she’s battled this horrible cancer. Never a word of complaint, never an effort to gain sympathy. Always thinking of her students, always dedicated to her work, her students, her colleagues, her family. That she withheld the knowledge of the brain tumor from everyone so that she could finish the school year typifies her selflessness.
Some of our happiest conversations have been about Austin and his family. I remember when Sam was born, how delighted she was to be a grandmother. She showed me pictures, talked about when she would visit, when it would be most convenient for Austin and Melita. Once again, it was always about others, not about herself. Even in these final days, she was holding on to the birth of the new baby–knowing it would be easier for Austin and the family. I’m so thankful she won that battle and got to see the baby’s pictures.
As I look back over these comments, I realize they don’t do her justice. But I wanted you to know that I love Rachel, I greatly admire her, I will miss her, and I’m thankful the Lord brought her into my life.
Joan and I have many happy memories of Rachel enduring her long ordeal with so much fortitude and faith. It sounds strange to speak of happy memories of someone fighting such battle as Rachel did and yet in her case I don’t think there is anything strange at all. We often spoke of how Rachel lived through her ordeal with grace. She was a constant source of amazement to us–and of inspiration too.