Laura Mathews lived a life of service, from helping entertain and care for other children in the Depression to the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II as the only woman electrician working to decades as a Long Beach Police Department volunteer in many roles over 36 years of helping.
Mathews died at 96 years old on March 29 in her Long Beach home surrounded by her family. A memorial mass with full military and police honors will take place at 10:30 a.m. today, Thursday, at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Belmont Shore.
Mathews was born Feb. 14, 1923, to Polish immigrant parents in Bridgeport, Conn. Starting at age 9, she volunteered at a New Jersey summer camp for crippled children, and started teaching citizenship classes for non-English speaking Polish immigrants at age 14.
She enlisted in 1943, serving in the Army Air Force as an electrical maintenance mechanic. While in the service, she met her future husband, Eugene (Gene) Przybyla. They were married Sept. 23, 1944.
In 1955, Gene's engineering job caused the family to move across the country, from New York to Los Angeles. Mathews became active in the Polish Catholic Church, working to build the first Roman Catholic/Polish Church in Los Angeles.
In 1970, another move brought them to Long Beach. Mathews worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services for 16 years before starting her next career as a super volunteer.
Her work with the Long Beach Police Department began in 1983. She worked in many different volunteer positions, became a member of the K-9 Officers Association and donated funds to purchase a K-9 dog named Wolf. She completed the Police Community Academy and served as a Senior Police Partner from 2003 to 2019.
At the same time, Mathews volunteered with the Long Beach Senior Center, the Veterans Administration Medical Center Library and elsewhere.
On a parallel track, in 1996 Mathews became involved in the Long Beach City College television broadcasting program. She ultimately participated in more than 150 programs in every possible position, from camera person to on-air talent. In addition to LBCC, she worked with Charter Communications.
"Laura had a deep love and desire to keep learning, to be of assistance to any and all who needed her, to share her knowledge and to make her voice heard," her granddaughter, Rebecca Stabel, wrote. "She loved people and enjoyed sharing stories from her life.
"The only way she would want me to end her story is with her signature words of advice...‘Be good to yourself.'”
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mathews’s name to the following organizations: Long Beach K9 Association, firstname.lastname@example.org and the Long Beach City College Scholarship Office, https://www.lbcc.edu/foundation-establish-scholarship.