Born on December 18, 1956 in Chateauroux, France to Filizi B. Fessl, a German war bride, and Frank M. Mathis of Houlka, a distinguished veteran of World War II who participated in the D-Day Invasion and who also fought in Vietnam, Rebecca Gale Mathis was given the middle name ‘Gale’ to spur her on to become a storm, a force of nature for the good.
Rebecca Mathis was educated in Europe and across the United States during the Cold War. A graduate of S.D. Lee High School in Columbus, Mississippi, Class of 1975, Rebecca put herself through college to earn a B.A. degree in English Literature with distinction from the University of California, Berkeley.
Her early career in the energy business facilitated her extensive travel through the unspoiled landscapes of the western United States, aligning Rebecca’s pulse and imagination with the American spirit and exposing her to the beauty and natural splendor of the country’s heartland.
Rebecca was a patriot, owing to the values instilled by her family, which were shaped by her father’s proud military service; she was an untiring advocate for civil liberty, and never failed to stand-up for human rights and to protect the innocent as well as the environment.
Inspired by her University of California, Berkeley education, Rebecca found the medium of film to be a powerful motivator to advance meaningful causes. She organized film festivals in the San Francisco Bay area, attracting adults and students, expanding horizons and opening minds at every opportunity.
Throughout her life Rebecca was an avid environmentalist, identifying herself as an “undeveloper”. She helped pioneer new concepts in renewable hydroelectric energy development and actively chose to conserve lands and open space in California and in Massachusetts and Maine.
Rebecca Mathis derived many of her core values from Mississippi, and from her loving grandfather and grandmother Henry Lacey Mathis and Naina Cole Mathis, and from her generous uncles and aunts, who shared rich lessons with Rebecca and her six siblings during fond visits to Houlka at the Mathis Family Farm. Rebecca met her husband, Ron Somers, in 1978 in Columbus, and they traveled and worked as a team across the United States and Asia, living in India for twelve years from 1992-2004, supporting India’s liberalization and its arrival as a global economic power. These international adventures never caused Rebecca to forget her roots and her love for her loving family and Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins in Mississippi.
Rebecca Mathis Somers was active in historic preservation, animal rescue, and especially in women’s education, championing these causes right to the end.
She chose to fight advanced-stage breast cancer while overlooking the Pacific, energized by its light, organizing a last personal film tribute, featuring the film, Ikiru: “To Live.” The lesson of this film is to live life with purpose and to dedicate your passion and spirit to making something worthwhile. She died in her mother’s arms with family and close friends at her side.
Rebecca Gale Mathis Somers is survived by her husband Ron; her beloved mother Filizi; her uncle Robin Mathis and Aunt Shirley; brothers Frank Jr., Gregory, Scott; sisters Virginia “DeDe”, Elaine, and Barbara Jo; nephews Adam, Lucas and Tyler; nieces Carmen, Vanessa, Jenni, Lacey, Katie, Meghan; godson Richard Holton; five grandnephews Kaelan, Mathis, Maddox, Marley and Theo; a grandniece, Mariah, and numerous cousins and dear friends.
Known by all for her caring soul and generous heart, and for her special wit and kindness, Rebecca Gale Mathis Somers was a loyal friend, a loving wife, an adoring daughter and niece, a devoted sister, and an aunt and godmother who shared praise with grace and loving guidance. She touched many lives and will be missed by all.
Donations in the memory of Rebecca Gale Mathis Somers can be sent to Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills, which is building a new wing for its animal care facility at P.O. Box 82, Norway, Maine 04268
Memorials celebrating Rebecca’s life will be held in 2013 in California in early spring and in Maine during fall foliage. Rebecca’s wish was to scatter some of her ashes at the gravesite of her beloved father, Frank Merrill Mathis, in Houlka, during the heat of the summer when the cicadas sing.
A complete obituary will be published in the Wednesday, Dec. 26, Chickasaw Journal.