Margaret Bradford-Matthews, 68, of Sewell, a former hospital technician, mother, and community volunteer, died Thursday, Aug. 9, of cancer at Pennsylvania Hospital.
Mrs. Bradford-Matthews lived in Philadelphia before moving to Sewell in Gloucester County in 1987.
In June 1967, she graduated from William Penn High School and began a career as a pathology technician at Metropolitan Hospital at Second and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia. She was one of the first African Americans to work in that role at the medical center, her family said.
She resigned the position in the spring of 1970 to marry Herman J. Matthews Jr., known as Pete. She raised the couple's four children.
At the same time, she was a den mother for Cub Scouts, an organizer of the Ivy Hill and West Oak Lane youth football programs, a volunteer adviser for her children's schools, and a school field-trip and classroom aide. Later, she volunteered for the Camden County Animal Shelter.
In 1996, Mrs. Bradford-Matthews' husband was elected president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 33, which represents the blue-collar workers of Philadelphia. He still serves in that role. She was a key behind-the-scenes adviser to her husband until her death.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for her," he said. "Union leadership is not a 9-to-5 job. Most nights I brought my work home, and my wife was a willing participant in helping me resolve labor issues. Her input on worker rights, pensions, health and welfare, and decent wages for city employees was vital in hashing out labor contracts with the City of Philadelphia."
Mrs. Bradford-Matthews loved attending political forums hosted by the union and then, on the way home, debating the issues with her husband.
The pinnacle of her political experience was when she was elected by the AFL-CIO women's committee to be a delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. "It was a great experience for her," her husband said.
Born in Philadelphia to David Bradford and Maggie Carter Bradford, Mrs. Bradford-Matthews joined the A.M.E. Union Church at an early age and went on to serve on the pastor's committee.
She treasured friends and family, including pets. "She loved children unconditionally. She also had a love for animals," her husband said. "You would always see her out and about, with her dogs Bo and Squirt riding in the passenger seat."
She liked to cook and was good at it. She was a skilled shopper with an eye for fashion.
Mrs. Bradford-Matthews found time to talk to strangers, neighbors, families, and friends. She would say afterward that two parties could "really talk" when there was a balanced exchange of ideas, her husband said.
At home, Mrs. Bradford-Matthews stressed the importance of education to her children and grandchildren. They went on to earn academic accolades in high school and college.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons Peter, Mark, and Allan; a daughter, Heather Matthews; five grandchildren; a brother; two sisters; and many nieces and nephews. A brother died earlier.
A viewing will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 20, followed by an 11 a.m. funeral service at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 2001 W. Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia. Interment is in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.