Solon Anthony Mathews B.Sc. E.E., M. Inst. R.E

* or Solon Anthony Mathewdakis or Solon Mathew Dakis

3 January 1911-19 December 1975

Solon Anthony Mathewdakis was born in Legaspi, in the Province of Albay on the Island of Luzon, the Philippines on the 3rd January 1911, the eldest son of Greek parents Theodore and Blanche Mathewdakis.

 

His early schooling was in Perth, Western Australia where his family migrated in 1914. His schools were Fremantle Boy’s School, New Norcia Benedictine Mission (where he was a weekly boarder), then Scotch College.  He was a bright, inquisitive student and an all-round athlete.

 

While with the Department of Shipping and Transport based in Melbourne, Solon became an inspector of lighthouse installations throughout Australia. Over 16 years he traveled the entire coastline of Australia on ships such as the SS Cape York, Cape Otway and Cape Don, inspecting and maintaining electrical and mechanical services.

 

Most of these lighthouses were situated in remote and wild locations. Getting to shore would have been very dangerous at times.  There are stories of small dinghies pulling up to shore during rough weather, and cable baskets swinging wildly between ship and land.  He clearly enjoyed the adventure that went with the job.

Solon’s next position was with the Post Master General Department as Chief Engineer.  Initially his role was the co-ordination of the design and installation of electronically controlled mail handling equipment at the then new central Postal Exchange in Perth, Western Australia.  He later developed automated, solar power/battery telephone substations that were installed around Australia in remote areas.

 

Solon retired in 1973 and enjoyed traveling with his wife Maria and spending more time with family.  Solon was a well-rounded individual; he enjoyed writing both travel and reflective pieces, he sang Spanish songs and he was an avid reader.

Solon died suddenly on 19 December 1975, at the young age of 64, having pursued his love of engineering all his life and having had the satisfaction of serving his profession with distinction.

 

He leaves behind his wife Maria, his three children Lefki, Katherine and Theodore and their families.

 

 

Written by

 

Lefki Kailis (nee Mathews)

for the family

3 March 2014

It was an exciting part of his career where he traveled extensively - coming to know Australia from its southernmost point to its northernmost and developing strong bonds with the lighthouse keepers throughout the country. In 1941, Solon enlisted for service in the Royal Australian Air Force and served as a Technical Specialist officer, with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, on the Headquarters of General MacArthur in New Guinea, the Halmaheras and the Philippines for three years.

 

At his request he was seconded in 1945 from the RAAF to accompany Douglas MacArthur when he returned to the Philippines and subsequently marched into Leyte.

 

Solon was desperate to find his family - His mother Blanche, sister Clio and his two brothers Plato and Alexander Mathews.  They had been interned along with over 3,000 other prisoners by the Japanese from 1942-45 in Santo Tomas University. He found them alive but emaciated. Following this heart-rendering event, and after the war ended in 1945 he returned to Australia and continued with civilian life.

When the family returned to the Philippines to live in 1928 Solon first completed secondary school at the Albay High School then enrolled in Electrical Engineering at the University of the Philippines.  While he was studying he served as a student engineer gaining technical experience at the RCA Communications Inc in Manila under the guidance and mentorship of the very respected Lewis McKesson. RCA Communications was a large transoceanic transmitting station providing vital overseas radio-telegraph and radio telephone services from Manila to all parts of the world. It broadcast services to the Philippine Islands and to overseas listeners via medium and short wave programs from KZRM Radio Manila.

 

Solon spent 6 years at RCA as a volunteer.  Also volunteering at the station was a good friend and colleague of his - Emil Grupe.  Solon learned many years later from Lewis McKesson that Emile had been executed by the Japanese after they occupied Manila and took over the RCAC facilities including the Transmitting Station at Manila Heights.

In 1935, Solon founded the

UP Engineering Radio Guild

"

"

 

In 1935. A group of electrical engineers/radio enthusiasts led by Solon Mathew Dakis founded an amateur radio club in Florida Street, Manila.  Realizing the need to establish outside university communication links, these young pioneers pushed for the acquisition of a license to put up a radio station known shortly thereafter as KA1UP; thus the beginning of the life of the University of the Philippines Engineering Radio Guild (UPERG).

 

 -Engineering Excellence 1910-2010 publication

put out by the University of the Philippines

Upon graduating, with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Solon worked at the Patents’ Office in Canberra, the capital city of Australia.  Here he served for four years as Examiner of Patents, in Radio, Television and Electronics.

 

In 1940 he was promoted in the Commonwealth Public Service to the position of Lighthouse Radio Engineer in the Central Administration of the Department of Shipping and Transport in Melbourne, Victoria.

 

 

In 1955 after re-joining the Department of Shipping and Transport, Solon was given responsibility for the planning and installation of a series of automated electronic lighthouses around Australia. The most significant was the Maritime Radio Navigational Station at Troughton Island in North-Western Australia.  Solon was away from his family for nine months during the construction of this technically complex and logistically difficult project.  He subsequently wrote and presented a thesis on the planning, supervision and installation of this project to the Institution of Engineers in Australia and was conferred the title of Chartered Engineer.

In 1961 Solon was employed by NASA to join the team at the Muchea tracking station 50 km north of Perth, Western Australia.  He was driven every day on the one hour trip to the tracking station.   As the Engineer in Charge of Telemetry, he was responsible for monitoring the heart and circulatory systems of the Project Mercury astronauts as they passed overhead and then for the transmission of that information to Cape Canaveral in the USA.

 

This included the 1962 Friendship 7 spacecraft mission when John Glenn became the first American to circumnavigate the earth in space.  Solon can be seen in the NASA produced documentary film showing the incredible global co-ordination necessary for this historic event.

 

When Project Mercury was completed, Solon was offered another position with NASA at a remote tracking station in Western Australia.

He declined the offer as he did not want to be away from family for long periods of time.

University of the Philippines

Engineering Radio Guild

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