Eugene Matera

Obituary of Eugene Matera

Eugene Matera, known to friends and family as Ennio or Gene, was born Eugenio Marco Antonio Matera on June 10, 1945 in Cosenza, Italy. He was the only son of Mario and Anna Matera. When he was five years old, the family left Italy to join family members who'd preceded them to Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Ennio grew up near the great-uncle and aunt who'd sponsored the move, in a household that included four beloved uncles, also new immigrants. He quickly picked up English, though not quickly enough to avoid some skirmishes with neighborhood boys.


Seven years later, the family relocated to Eureka, California, where his parents eventually opened a tailor shop. Ennio was voted Most Likely to Succeed in the Eureka High School class of 1963. He was awarded a full scholarship to Stanford University, and he graduated in 1967 with a degree in anthropology. He spent a year in graduate studies at the University of British Columbia, then he returned to Eureka to complete a Masters Degree in biology at Humboldt State University. Shortly afterward, he was drafted and sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. He went on to complete a tour of duty in Vietnam, though he strongly opposed that war. He was a dog handler there, walking point with a German shepherd he grew to love but was not allowed to bring home. He received two Purple Hearts for minor wounds, and he finished his tour seemingly uninjured. But exposure to Agent Orange near Cu Chi, Vietnam, led to his developing Parkinson's disease in later life. He died from complications of that disease on October 17, 2019. He was at home spending a pleasant morning with his wife, Maura, at the time. His passing was quick and pain-free.


When he returned to the United States from Vietnam, he applied for and was granted U.S. citizenship. He lived and worked in New Bedford, Massachusetts until 1975, when he moved to Santa Cruz, California. For several years he ran Dr. Jack Davis's laboratory at Thiemman Labs at the UCSC. Later, he earned a teaching credential, and went on to teach middle school science and math and occasionally social science, including a course on Vietnam, at San Juan Bautista Middle School. He loved teaching. An active member of the Teachers' Union, he was instrumental in negotiating several contracts for his coworkers. He also coached youth soccer teams in Santa Cruz for many years


After his retirement, he enjoyed traveling with his wife. They visited England and Northern Ireland, took many trips up and down the California coast and into Nevada, and visited family in Vancouver, Canada. A fitness buff, Ennio enjoyed long walks and work-outs. His interest in the sciences was complemented by an interest in religious philosophies and esoterica. He was an adept handyman and an excellent artist, and he was planning to publish a novel he'd written based on his experiences in Vietnam.


Above all, Ennio was a family man who felt great pride in his sons Michael and Daniel, his nephews Brendan and Dashiell, and his many younger cousins. He was close to numerous aunts and uncles in the U.S., Canada, and Italy. He was a welcoming and generous host, and often had friends and family staying at his Capitola home. His Sunday dinners were legendary for their bounty and good cheer, and they typically included his friends and his sons' friends.


He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Maura Matera, his sons Michael Matera, of Santa Cruz and Daniel Matera, of Brooklyn, N.Y., his sister Lia Matera of Santa Cruz, three nephews and a niece in California, and many cousins in Canada and Italy.


He was cremated at his request. The family thanks his many friends, family members, and former coworkers and students for sharing their memories of Ennio in messages of condolence and support.

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