New Castle icon Pete Mattivi dies at 103
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – At 103, Pete Mattivi just decided it was time to go. He passed away peacefully at the Crossroads Assisted Living Center in Rifle in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 27.
The former longtime mayor and Garfield County commissioner was an icon in New Castle and will be sorely missed.
“He was old and tired and he indicated to us that he was ready to go,” said his daughter, Pam Bunn of New Castle. “Mom (Opal Mattivi) died nine years ago, and he missed her terribly. His goal in life was to be a good husband and father, and he met and passed those goals.”
Mattivi was infamous in town for his rose garden and fruit trees in the yard of his home on Main Street, across the alley from the post office. In fact, the family brought him back to New Castle to look at the roses just a couple of weeks ago.
“The roses and the garden were his pride and joy,” Bunn said.
Along with serving as mayor of the town of New Castle from 1954 to 1969 and from 1974 to 1981, he was also a county commissioner from 1957 to 1977. He retired from politics in 1981 at the age of 76. He also served on the Re-2 school board for 10 years; was instrumental in the construction of the Garfield County Public Library headquarters in New Castle; was a founding member of the New Castle Community Center; a member of the Golden Key Kiwanis Club; and an original member of the Lions Club in New Castle.
The plaza downtown is named after him, Mattivi Plaza, as is a side street. He’s served as grand marshal for the Burning Mountain Festival parade a number of times – the last time in 2006.
Friends were saddened on Saturday to learn of his passing.
“I’ve known him all my life,” said Steve Rippy, who also served as a longtime mayor himself. “For anyone who knew him, you thought of him as your grandfather. He cared about you – he listened to you.”
In fact, it was Mattivi who encouraged Rippy to run for mayor.
“I thought, well, if it’s coming from Pete, it means a lot,” Rippy said.
When Bunn owned and operated the New Castle Cafe across the street from Mattivi’s house (now Patti’s Main Street Coffeehouse) between 1999 and 2008, Mattivi could be seen every morning at 8:30 a.m. like clockwork, crossing the street on foot or on his scooter to get breakfast.
“He would sit down and give you a history lesson about the town of New Castle,” Rippy recalled. “He was an icon in New Castle. And he was sharp all the way to the end.”
Current Mayor Frank Breslin and his wife, Kim, lived across the street from Mattivi.
“I met Pete in 1976 when I first moved to New Castle,” Kim Breslin said. “I would help him in his yard, pick cherries for him if he needed and would shovel his walk for him in the winter. I enjoyed listening to his stories. I remember Pete as a fair and honest man. He always took your word on a handshake or word of mouth.”
That sentiment is echoed over and over by everyone who knew him.
Mattivi was also an inspiration to Frank Breslin.
“Pete was my role model as to how to be a mayor, a chairman,” he said. “He told me when I was campaigning not to make any promises to anybody and treat everybody with respect.”
But Mattivi also provided helpful tips as a neighbor.
“I met Pete when I was 22 years old, and he lived across the street,” Frank said. “We got great gardening tips from him about soil and how to prune fruit trees.”
The Breslins used to watch the World Series baseball games with Mattivi.
“He could tell stories from the 1920s,” Frank recalled. He loved baseball. And he remembered with incredible accuracy all the important events in baseball history.”
Larry Velasquez of Parachute had known Mattivi since he was 10 years old, growing up in Canyon Creek. He later had the daunting task of filling Mattivi’s shoes as county commissioner in 1977.
Like others, Velasquez also remembers Mattivi as an astute historian for the town and the county.
“He had an extremely sharp mind – anyone who knows the history of Garfield County knows what Pete Mattivi had to pass on to us,” he said.
Mattivi was born on Sept. 8, 1905, in Crystal. He went to school in Marble and at the little red school house in Canyon Creek and also lived in Salida and Glenwood Springs before settling in New Castle in 1929. He married Opal Wurts on Nov. 1, 1931. With his brother, Matt, the Mattivis opened the Mattivi Motor Co. at Third and Main Street, which became the Three Rivers Repair shop in 1937.
After 53 years, he and Opal retired from the auto business in 1982. Opal Mattivi passed away in August 2000.
Gary Swallow, of Swallow Oil, remembers delivering gas to Mattivi’s shop.
“I’ve known Pete since 1951,” Swallow said. “I just cannot say enough about him. He was a great guy. I visited him several times at Crossroads, and he could talk to you about today and talk to you about yesterday. He was a pretty sharp guy. He was a business associate and also a friend. He’s going to be missed.”
When he turned 100, Mattivi moved from New Castle to the Crossroads Assisted Living Center.
“He loved it there,” Bunn said.
Mattivi would joke and attribute his longevity to “wine, women and song,” but Bunn said it was good, clean living.
“He was a gentleman,” she said. “He was gentle, and he was a gentleman.”
Longtime residents mourn the passage of a piece of the town’s history. Family members are grieving the loss of an exceptional man.
“I thank my lucky stars every day that I had him,” Bunn said with a catch in her voice. “What a person to have to look up to and to have as a teacher. I just hope I can continue to be the person he expected me to be and live up to.”
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