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Jim Mather Celebrates 100th Birthday

James A. Mather of Newbury Park celebrated his 100th birthday on February 26, and he’s giving all the credit to God. Jim served in the U.S. Navy, owned his own business and raised a family, but told the Conejo Guardian that the single greatest event of his life happened when he heard the Rev. Billy Graham deliver an inspiring eulogy at a funeral in 1956, and Jim “invited Jesus Christ to be the Lord of his life.” Since that day, Jim’s life and career have borne out his faith.

A Texas-born native and Kansas high school graduate, Jim hiked 30 miles from El Dorado to Wichita to join the U.S. Navy, where he served during World War II. He spent three-and-a-half years on active duty and continued in the reserves for another 13 years while working as art director with the Alexander Film Company.

In 1954, Jim started his own leadership training institute, then launched the Mr. Steak restaurant chain in 1956. At its peak, the chain included 278 restaurants across the U.S. and four in Canada. Jim dedicated his new venture to God and is quick to attribute any personal or corporate success to that fact. His business philosophy was “God first, family next and business last.”

Jim’s avowed mission, until he retired from the franchise in 1986, was to “show people the path to eternal salvation and a good steak.”

Retirement didn’t mean slowing down for Jim. He served on the boards of The Institute for Creation Research and Rockmont College (now Colorado Christian University). He was involved with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Kona, the Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jim hosted weekly Bible studies at his home and held breakfast meetings with men who called themselves “the motley group.”

Jim was married to his first wife, Dorothy (Dottie) Jean Rehnlund, for 47 years before she died of pancreatic cancer. They were wed on Armistice Day, November 11, 1944, and raised two sons and a daughter.

Not many folks get to see Siberia, but Jim jumped at the opportunity to travel on a short trip there in 1993. He taught a course called “Christian Morals  and Ethics, A Foundation for Society.” On this trip, Jim met Linda Lopez. The two married in July 1995.

“He loves on people he meets with hugs, words of encouragement and prayer,” Linda says of Jim.


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