Sumner "Matt" Matthes, April 5, 2011

Sumner Matthes, of Sarasota died April 5, 2011.

"Matt" was born in Lowell, Mass. and at age 17 enlisted in the United States Air Force. He spent the next 22 years serving his country in Europe, Asia, Africa and at military bases around the U. S. For 7 years in Europe he was a member of the Air Weather Service Inspector General Team that took him to sites all over the world.

Upon his retirement from the Air Force, Matt moved to Sarasota, Fla. with his family and became involved in his community. Locally, he has served as Treasurer of The Humane Society of Sarasota County, with the Sarasota County Animal Welfare Board, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Animal Services. His compassion for homeless animals led him to become an animal rights advocate and activist for over 35 years not only with Sarasota in Defense of Animals (SDA) but also throughout the State of Florida, the United States, and globally as well, with World Society for Protection of Animals and on the Board of Directors of The Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, Texas. He has saved the lives of thousands of wild and exotic animals sometimes having them transported for thousands of miles to give them life in a semi-natural environment in sanctuaries.

For stricter laws for animal protection, he has lobbied in the Florida Legislature and in the U. S. Congress. One of Matt's amazing achievements that had national media coverage was the dramatic rescue of Texas Cougars that were used by the Florida Fish & Game Commission to re-institute the Florida Panther gene pool and had ended up on a canned hunting ranch in Texas. He not only saved the Cougars and put them in a sanctuary, but his efforts sparked a legislative investigation of the Florida Panther License Plate Fund resulting in exposure of misappropriation and subsequent realignment of the Panther Trust Fund.

On the local scene, Matt worked tirelessly for over 10 years for the building replacement of the Sarasota County Animal Shelter; for securing funding and administering for 5 years the first county spay/neuter program; successfully campaigning for county ordinances banning canned hunts in Sarasota County; lifting restrictions on the number of household pets, and to allow feral and un-owned neighborhood cats to exist under certain rules with care-givers. Most recently, Matt was awarded the Sarasota County Certificate of Recognition from the Sarasota County Commission by John Thaxton.

In 1988, Matt purchased a property in rural Sarasota County and now the site of the SDA sanctuary which provides lifetime care for goats, ducks, geese, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, sheep, and cows.

His spirit has now moved across the Rainbow where he will be reunited on the other side with the thousands of precious animals that he has been privileged to care for and know.

He is survived by his wife, Elise; his children, Ashley, Russell and Kristi; and four grandchildren, Keiley, Cameron, Caroline and Ellie Kate.

A memorial tribute and burial services will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 8th, at the Sarasota Memorial Cemetery, on SR-72 (Clark Rd). A reception will follow at The Daiquiri Deck on Siesta Key.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made online to or to Sarasota in Defense of Animals, PO, Box 15653, Sarasota, FL, 34277-1653.