Matthew Nicholas Coughlin was born on April 4th , 1943, on a bright sunny Easter morning in Lancashire, England. His mother liked to tell about the brass band that played outside the hospital window, no doubt welcoming him to the world. Other than a terrifying ride on the back of his uncle’s motorcycle, he has very few memories of England, since his family moved to the far reaches of Alberta, Canada when he was 5. He always liked to say that he and his brothers and sisters were 20th Century pioneer children, with no indoor plumbing their first few years there and only a head high path through the snow to the outhouse.
At the age of 12, they left their Canadian adventures behind and moved to Connecticut, becoming US citizens in an emotional ceremony right after the death of John F. Kennedy.
Matthew received his undergraduate degree at Fairfield University and a Masters in literature at Villanova University. His high school and college Jesuit education left him with a thirst for intellectual challenges. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in dramatic literature at the University of Iowa, specializing in the absurdist playwrights and the little known Irish writer, George Fitzmaurice. He journeyed to Ireland to do research on Fitzmaurice, and while directing a play that he had written at a small theatre in Dublin, he met his wife Chrissie Hines.
Matthew was an educator of the best sort, engaging both his university and high school level students in the pursuit of learning. (He once amazed his students at a Newark, NJ, high school by “rapping” every single word of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.)
He loved animals of all kinds, and treasured moments on the porch watching for pelicans, great blue herons, and the occasional pod of dolphins swimming north up Mobile Bay in pursuit of schools of fish. One of his most favorite memories was kayaking with California Grey Whales off the coast of Mexico. But there is no doubt that dogs were his favorite creatures, and it is hard to say who benefited the most from being adopted into his family of dog lovers.
As a dad, he not only showered his daughter Katie with love and affection, but following in the exalted tradition of Irish storytellers, he regaled her almost every night with completely off the cuff magical tales that emerged from his creative mind.
He loved to sing and joined a choir wherever he lived. In Baldwin County, he particularly loved his time making a joyful noise with the Path to Peace Choir, a multiracial, multi-denominational group dedicated to inspiring relationships within the community.
He is survived by his wife, Lillis Christian Hines; his beloved daughter, Katherine Brooks Coughlin; his sisters, Moira Hambleton and Catherine Sinnott; and his brothers, Christopher Coughlin and Michael Coughlin. Matthew is preceded in death by his father, Maurice Coughlin, his mother, Mary Maher Coughlin, and his brother, John Coughlin.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 AM, Saturday, October 28, 2023, at Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Parish, 31122 US-31, in Spanish Fort. AL. Celebrant will be Father Jim Sink. Burial will be held at 11:30 AM at New Cooper Cemetery in Robertsdale. In lieu of flowers, he has requested that donations be made to Smile Train (www.smiletrain.org), one of his favorite charities.
Expressions of condolence may be offered at www.hughesfh.com. Arrangements are by Hughes Funeral Home of Daphne, Alabama.