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Belmont County Leaders Mourn Mattox

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County leaders paused proceedings Wednesday to mourn the passing of John Mattox, the community leader who had served on numerous organizations including the Ohio National Road Association and A Special Wish.

Mattox suffered a massive stroke Monday, and died Wednesday morning at the Ohio State University Medical Center surrounded by his family.

Belmont County Tourism Council Director Barb Ballint relayed the news during Wednesday’s meeting of the Belmont County Board of Commissioners.

She had received news from Mattox’s family shortly before the presentation of her quarterly tourism report. Ballint was visibly emotional as she spoke.

“(The Mattox family) wants to thank everyone who has reached out to them in the community,” Ballint said. “This is a great loss for Belmont County and just for everyone who knew of such an amazing individual as John Mattox. I’m sorry to be the one to share that with you, but it’s important to know that today we lost a very important person in our area.”

In addition to his community work, Mattox was also the founder and curator of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing.

“We’re sad to hear that,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said. “Dr. Mattox was a tremendous individual, just a tremendous person. Always had a smile on his face, always had positive words to say to people. Very uplifting. I know what he spoke at different events, he always had very positive things to say but very profound things to say that made you think. Made you look introspectively at yourself and just how to take on the day and live life. He was someone I always appreciated being around. … It’s a tremendous loss for Belmont County, because he loved Belmont County and put tremendous effort in Belmont County. He’s one of those people you just won’t replace. There’s only one Dr. Mattox.”

“I grew up in Flushing, which was where Dr. Mattox was from. I’ve been around him all the time, my entire life,” Commissioner J.P. Dutton said, adding that he knew Mattox and Ballint had worked often together to promote the county. “One of the hidden gems of Belmont County tourism was the Underground Railroad Museum.”

Dutton added that he and others had fond memories of touring the museum.

“If you ever had the opportunity to go through the museum with Dr. Mattox … it was always above whatever your expectation level was. He poured his heart and soul into that museum and you could tell,” Dutton said.

“My kids had the opportunity to go through. He’s brought hundreds of hundreds of Belmont County school children through that museum, and many went there with good questions. He was a great community leader in general.”

He added that Mattox could often be seen serving on boards to assist juveniles in the Sargus Detention Center and inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution in rehabilitation.

“He had an impact all over the county,” Dutton said.

“He had a real passion for the museum,” Belmont County Commissioner Jerry Echemann said, adding that he had worked with Mattox during Echemann’s media career as well as his more recent political career. “He was so interesting to talk to. To me, he defined the world ‘gentleman.’ He was just a great guy to have lunch with.”

“He made Belmont County a better place,” Richard Hord of Martins Ferry, one of the guests, added.

The commissioners conveyed their best wishes to Mattox’s family.

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