Lifelong political activist Marilyn Matia, of Solon, votes for getting involved

By Linda Kinsey, Northeast Ohio Media Group
The Plain Dealer
December 18, 2014

SOLON, Ohio -- Spend a few minutes with Marilyn Matia, of Solon, over a cup of coffee and you quickly understand she is a loyal Republican and believes the Republican Party has it right when it comes to political philosophy.

But that doesn't mean she thinks all voters should turn to the GOP. Becoming active in the political process is more important, she says, than political party persuasion – a belief she has held dear for most of her life.

You'd have to search a long time to find someone who has been more politically involved.

Matia, 86, stepped into the political world in 1960, when she began campaigning for presidential candidate Richard Nixon. "I was told over and over again, we have to vote for Kennedy," she says. "I didn't think that was right."

While she admits to finding the young John Kennedy handsome and persuasive, Nixon better reflected her own political leanings.

But getting into politics didn't just happen. She was prompted by her father who bluntly told her she was becoming a "dull housewife." That was enough to set her into action.

The seeds of political activism had already been planted, as far back as high school when a civics teacher fired up her political spirit. Then, at the University of Wisconsin, where she earned a bachelor's degree in social psychology with a minor in political science and English, she met a professor who also challenged her to think about her political philosophy and her role in the world.

Determined to shake the "dull housewife" image, Matia headed into her Shaker Heights neighborhood -- pulling her three young sons in a wagon -- where she went door-to-door urging votes for Nixon. That included the area around Our Lady of Peace parish, which was "very definitely ethnic" at that time and thought to be supportive of Kennedy.

Since that time, she has stumped for a long list of Republican candidates and served as co-chairman of the Perk for Auditor Committee, Taft for Senate Committee and the Nixon for President Committee (Cuyahoga County). She also served as assistant ward leader in Shaker Heights from 1966 to 1968 and was Republican ward leader from 1968 to '74.

She also volunteered as a delegate to the 1972 Republican National Convention, an event she counts as one of the high points in her life. She called her widowed mother to tune into the convention on the chance she might see her on the convention floor. "I was walking down the aisle, and I had tears streaming down my face. I was just overwhelmed," Matia says of being in the midst of the event.

Then, in 1976, she fell in love with and married her second husband, Thomas Matia, a Democrat, who served on the bench in Cuyahoga County's Common Pleas Court.

"There's such a thing called love," Marilyn Matia says when asked why she married a Democrat. "We were kindred souls. We had a great time together. We had eight children -- three were mine and five were his."

During the time Thomas Matia was judge, Marilyn Matia put active politics on hold, although she continued to read books and have lively discussions with friends and family.

Her books are not the ordinary type, however. She continues, for starters, to study The Federalist Papers, a collection of 87 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, originally published to persuade New York voters to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Another of her favorite books is "The Seedtime of the Republic," a weighty book by Clinton Rossiter, a political scientist and professor at Cornell University. The book, Matia says, sheds light on the people of Colonial times, "their biographies and how they came to believe what they believed."

Following her husband's death in 2008, Matia returned to volunteer work, which includes speaking at schools and civic groups on the need for active participation in the political process.

Nowadays, she also hosts gatherings at her home to discuss ideas and events of the world.

With some help from a Home Care Assistance aide, Matia lives a full and active life, which includes competitive bridge.

"I play tournament bridge. I love it. It's relaxing and a challenge. I've played for 72 years."

Marilyn's most recent volunteer activities include serving as Solon's Republican Ward Leader and as a member of the RPCC Policy Committee.  Marilyn was a founding member of the Southeast Republicans and served on its first board of directors.  Her work to get out the vote at the neighborhood level has helped numerous successful Republican candidates in recent elections.

Marilyn's advice to her fellow citizens in 2015 is to get involved with organizations like the CVR and with their local political party organization.  "Government doesn't really serve its constituents unless citizens are actively engaged in the political process.  Don't wait for someone else to step forward.  Get involved." 

And according to Marilyn, one of the best ways Republican voters can get involved is by serving as a precinct leader on their local county Republican Party central committee.  Central committee members elect the GOP party leadership, choose the party's candidates for public office and decide the party's policy position on important issues.

"One great way to make a difference is to represent your community as a precinct leader on the County Central Committee." 

The CVR Board of Trustees thinks that's good advice.