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Good-Bye, Dan Matheson

From reliable sources, I’ve heard that Dan Matheson died last Sunday from a heart attack. Most people in the gaming industry know Dan from his decades as the warehouse manager of Black Hawk Hobby Distributors, located in northern Illinois, just south of my home here in Beloit. That’s where I met him.

Black Hawk was the first game distributor I ever visited, back when I was all of 16 years old, and I had a short-lived fanzine I wanted to flog. I drove out to the barn that used to serve as the company warehouse before a fire took it in 1988, and I met Cliff Wilson, the owner, who told me he couldn’t carry it. Even so, I learned a lot from both Cliff and Dan over the years.

Cliff passed on of a heart attack himself, back in 1997, crashing his car as he tried to drive himself to the hospital. They were both that kind of stubborn and tough, honest men who were always ready to point out when you’d done something wrong and shake your hand when you’d done right.

Dan retired in 2005, but I still saw him at conventions from time to time, and even pulled up next to him at a stop light here in town once or twice. Most of the time I knew him, he had a beard that would have made Gandalf jealous. I only ever saw him without it once, and he had it back almost full in by the time I saw him next, almost as if he’d always worn a false one and I’d just caught him without it once by mistake.

Dan served his country in Vietnam, and I understand he had some health issues related to Agent Orange. He never let any of that slow him down that I ever saw.

From friends in the know, I discovered that Dan actually was the first head of security for TSR back in the days when Gary Gygax still ran the company. I can only imagine he tackled that job as he did everything else, with a fully developed set of senses of honor, duty, and humor.

My condolences to Dan’s family, especially those closest to him: his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. He was a good man, and we were all blessed to know him.

Comments 14

  1. Dan will be missed much indeed. He was a fixture at RockCon, where I’ve spent no few weekends in the fall over the last seven years.

    He was a great guy. I loved his stories from the early days. My favorite was how he was the guy who ended up dumping the original orange copies of B3: Palace of the Silver Princess. He took boxes and boxes of them and dumped them personally in some dump near Lake Geneva. Never would tell me where, though…

  2. Dan will be missed much indeed. He was a fixture at RockCon, where I’ve spent no few weekends in the fall over the last seven years.

    He was a great guy. I loved his stories from the early days. My favorite was how he was the guy who ended up dumping the original orange copies of B3: Palace of the Silver Princess. He took boxes and boxes of them and dumped them personally in some dump near Lake Geneva. Never would tell me where, though…

  3. Dan was my father. He used to look his name up online sometimes, and it would always be there but it would rarely be on the first page of hits. When I looked it up recently, he was the first four. It makes it a little easier knowing that so many people care.

  4. Dan was my father. He used to look his name up online sometimes, and it would always be there but it would rarely be on the first page of hits. When I looked it up recently, he was the first four. It makes it a little easier knowing that so many people care.

  5. My deepest condolences to you and your family, Dan. I always enjoyed your father’s company, and I know many others did too. I’ve already had several conversation with mutual friends reminiscing about him, and I’m sure I’ll have more this week at Origins. It will be very odd to not have him there to share them with us, but we’ll raise a toast for him and remember him well. He will not be forgotten.

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    Author

    My deepest condolences to you and your family, Dan. I always enjoyed your father’s company, and I know many others did too. I’ve already had several conversation with mutual friends reminiscing about him, and I’m sure I’ll have more this week at Origins. It will be very odd to not have him there to share them with us, but we’ll raise a toast for him and remember him well. He will not be forgotten.

  7. Renae and I met Dan shortly after moving to Lake Geneva and working at the Game Guild. A big, scary-looking older man with unlaced boots walked in carrying a box of stuff. But underneath the big beard beat a big, generous heart and he quickly became an important friend.

    We made it a point to see Dan every now and then, and I’m glad to know that he lived a full life and had so many friends and family who cared for him. Still, it seemed too soon to lose him and my family and I will miss him.

  8. Renae and I met Dan shortly after moving to Lake Geneva and working at the Game Guild. A big, scary-looking older man with unlaced boots walked in carrying a box of stuff. But underneath the big beard beat a big, generous heart and he quickly became an important friend.

    We made it a point to see Dan every now and then, and I’m glad to know that he lived a full life and had so many friends and family who cared for him. Still, it seemed too soon to lose him and my family and I will miss him.

  9. Dan: Just in case you see this, I’m trying to find two things. A good picture of your father, and the rank he held in the military. We are honoring the members of the game industry at Origins in Columbus in just a few days, and I’ve been trying to help the GAMA folks find what they need.

    It was good to meet you again after several years, though it was under unfortunate circumstances and I’m so very deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you for whatever help you can provide.

  10. Dan: Just in case you see this, I’m trying to find two things. A good picture of your father, and the rank he held in the military. We are honoring the members of the game industry at Origins in Columbus in just a few days, and I’ve been trying to help the GAMA folks find what they need.

    It was good to meet you again after several years, though it was under unfortunate circumstances and I’m so very deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you for whatever help you can provide.

  11. I’ll miss Dan. Although I’d met him in Lake Geneva, I didn’t spend any real time with him until we played some Kingmaker at Rockcon. He had made the world’s greatest Kingmaker board with hand painted pieces, special cards, the works.

    I later got to know Dan better in his role as salesman for Blackhawk. He was gruff, but it was really his schtick. Under his crusty one-liners was a really sweet guy. I’ll also miss his brownies and other baked goods. He brought them to conventions, and whenever I was scheduled to visit Blackhawk, he’d have a plateful of baked goodies out to enjoy while we talked business.

  12. I’ll miss Dan. Although I’d met him in Lake Geneva, I didn’t spend any real time with him until we played some Kingmaker at Rockcon. He had made the world’s greatest Kingmaker board with hand painted pieces, special cards, the works.

    I later got to know Dan better in his role as salesman for Blackhawk. He was gruff, but it was really his schtick. Under his crusty one-liners was a really sweet guy. I’ll also miss his brownies and other baked goods. He brought them to conventions, and whenever I was scheduled to visit Blackhawk, he’d have a plateful of baked goodies out to enjoy while we talked business.

  13. Thanks for the memories, Jamie and Martin. As we’ve all said, gruff as he could come across, Dan was a gentleman and kind as could be to his friends.

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    Author

    Thanks for the memories, Jamie and Martin. As we’ve all said, gruff as he could come across, Dan was a gentleman and kind as could be to his friends.

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