Patty Jaimes says she had quite a legacy to follow when she succeeded Delbert Mathia as Douglas County Clerk.
"It was a little frightening," she said. "But he was my mentor. I think he trained me very well."
Mathia died Friday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He was 81.
He served Douglas County for nearly 40 years, 26 as county clerk, and he was a "wonderful public servant," Jaimes said.
Mathia grew up in Eudora. He graduated from Eudora High School in 1938. That year, he was the leading scorer for the Cardinal basketball team, which won league and district championships.
Mathia joined the U.S. Army. He started working in the county clerk's office when he returned from World War II. He was elected county clerk in 1954 and later became president of County Clerks of Kansas. In 1962, Mathia taught election procedures to 104 other clerks at a "county clerks school" at Kansas University.
He retired in 1980.
Upon his retirement, Mathia said that the biggest change throughout his career was the onset of the computer age. The best part, he said, was meeting so many people.
"This is just a beautiful place," he said of the Douglas County Courthouse in a 1980 Journal-World article. "It kind of grows on you."
Jaimes said Mathia was a very patient supervisor who treated his employees like they were members of his own family.
She is among several former employees who will serve as honorary pallbearers at his funeral Monday.
Mathia also was active in the community, as a member of the Central United Methodist Church and the Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14 of the American Legion. In 1949, he helped start the American Legion Pancake Day, still an annual event.
Fellow Legionnaire Alan Fisher said Mathia was a "politician deluxe" he knew how to get along with everyone.
"He was a quiet, fun-loving sort of a guy that liked to tease his close buddies in a gentle sort of way," Fisher said. "He didn't mind being teased back, and everybody did."