Plumber by trade, dog rescuer by passion: Fred Matteson lives fully
In this issue’s Spotlight, meet Fred Matteson, a man of many skills and interests who rescues the college from water leaks, then goes home to rescue dogs for the Oswego County Humane Society.
Q. Where did you grow up??
A. I was brought up here in Oswego, went to Oswego High School. I was a football player for Oswego and also did basketball, wrestling, track—I played just about everything. I then went to prep school in Manlius.
Q. Where did you work before SUNY Oswego??
A. I started out as an apprentice pipefitter/steamfitter for four years. I worked for Hammermill Paper Co. for 29 years. I was a steamfitter, welder, became a boiler operator and then supervisor of the boiler house and did the safety for the plant. They closed in ‘02. I ran security at Oswego Speedway for 30 years, something I did on the side.
Q. Did you come to work for the college after the plant closed?
A. I had different job offers, out of state and in Syracuse. The college offered me a job, and I saved the 40-mile drive to Syracuse. I started here Oct. 4 of ‘02 as a custodian. Sometime in ‘03, I bid out to the plumbing department, first in a temporary job, and I later got the position.
Q. What are your responsibilities?
A. I take care of all the locating of underground utilities, I do all the treatment of heat systems and then I share the plumbing and steamfitting with six guys. I work a lot in the academic buildings and the housing buildings. I jump all over campus. We do a lot of showers, toilets, sinks, leaks through the roof—which usually turn out not to be ours, but anytime folks see water, we get called. I am on the employee safety committee and we meet with management and Christine (Body) and go down the best avenue to do the right thing. I also do the asbestos removal for the college.
Q. What do you like about your job?
A. My thing—and you can ask the guys this—I like the dirty work. I like the hydrant work—I do all the testing of hydrants on campus and all the installations. I like to work with my hands. And I like to work with the young guys coming in. The young generation today doesn’t always want to go in and get dirty, but you need that. I can understand them—at the end of the day, you go home and have a sore back or arms. I enjoy teaching, and we’ve got a great bunch of guys.
Q. Do you have a lot of contact with students?
A. We do all the time. I have fun with them. You’ll see a kid on the elevator with an iPhone, and I’ll go, “Are you texting?” He’ll say, “Yeah, why?” and I’ll go, “Well, there’s a law—no texting in an elevator.” He says, “There is?!” (Laughs.) We’ll kid around—there’s a great bunch of students here and it’s a fantastic college.
Q. Can you tell us about an interesting work experience here?
A. I can tell you about one we just had—it was a water main break. I got the initial call-in on a Saturday morning and went out to find a valve system that I could shut off to knock down water for the least amount of buildings. Open and close, open and close. We had a big lake of water with ice over the top. The pumps couldn’t keep up. We tried to find the break. We called Malone’s in, found the line before they got here and we worked together and did the repair. I worked 22 hours straight.
Q. How do you get along with colleagues and supervisors?
A. We were close at the (Hammermill) plant, but we’re close here, too. That’s a good thing. Generally, all around, it’s a nice place to work. Management is good to you—they’ll listen to you. Right now, I’m drawing up a map of our water system, where we can add valving to try to keep water service to parts of campus that we’re now losing. I enjoy doing things like that.
Q. What are your interests outside of work?
A. My wife and I foster for the Oswego County Humane Society. We’ve been involved about five years now—over a hundred-plus dogs we’ve taken in and rehabilitated and gotten good homes for them. Right now we have 11 dogs. When my horse passed away at 26, our last one, I took the stalls in the barn and made them into kennels. I can have the worst day away from home, and in 10 minutes I am laughing my head off. I do a lot of hunting and fishing. We go up to Seaway Island Resort on Wellesley Island. My wife, Christine, loves to fish. She likes to soak up the sunshine while I’m snorkeling. I like watching SU (sports) on TV—I don’t know about lately ... (Laughs.)
Q. What else can you tell us about your family?
A. We live in Scriba—Lycoming. My wife has a unique job; she is the director of the weatherization program for Oswego County for almost 20 years. I have three children. My son, Fred Jr., is a border patrol agent in Arizona. My youngest daughter, Rebecca, is a nurse practitioner in Dover, Del. My oldest daughter, Regina, is a software specialist for a medical company in Syracuse. My wife and I have six beautiful grandchildren. My stepsons are Derek, in the Navy, and Jimmer, who is a carpenter.
(Posted: Mar 07, 2014)