William Matthews


William Francis Matthews 

William was 81 when he passed away surrounded by loved ones in the final days of December 2023 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was an artist in every fiber of his being and designed with a joyful flair for film and television. In between shows he created art for galleries using many types of media. He saw magic in every project and was deeply inspired by the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Neruda's words became the scripts he used to shape his personal artworks. William was a passionate artist, a loyal friend, generous, and kind.

Born the first of three children, he was a loving brother to Cheryle and Charlene.  He was the proud father of Elizabeth and John, grandfather of Jessica, Abby, Michael William, and Sara, and great-grandfather of Nina. He married the artist Diana Folsom in 2005 and became a loving brother-in-law to Stanley, and uncle to Samuel and Rebecca. In 2019, William received the Art Directors Guild’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Set Design.

William earned his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Theatre Design at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He began his career at PBS designing educational films and also spent time working in live theater. His theater design credits include Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Guys and Dolls, and an Off-Broadway show titled Moonchildren.

William relocated to Los Angeles, joined IATSE Local 800 (Art Directors Guild) in 1979, and spent fifty years working in the performing arts in both film and television, working his way up from Set Designer to Art Director and Production Designer for all the major studios, including ABC, NBC, HBO, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Columbia, and Universal, as well as streaming services. He worked on several early Steven Spielberg films, including Poltergeist, E.T., Gremlins, and Innerspace, as well as the first episode of Amazing Stories. He spent three seasons as Production Designer on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 for Aaron Spelling and another three seasons on Lost, designing international sets constructed on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i to represent locales such as London, Berlin, and Iraq. Following Lost, he spent two seasons on Monk. Other film projects included Captain Ron, Cheaper by the Dozen, three Karate Kid films, Out to Sea, Stripes, The Marrying Man, Godless and The Underground Railroad, among others. 

Outside of his work in film and television, William spent ten years teaching design on the faculty of Castleton State College, Mount Holyoke College, and Carnegie-Mellon University. In the 1990s, William began to combine his theatrical experience with his fine arts training in painting, collage, and assemblage. His work has been exhibited at Gallery Western, DoubleVision Gallery, and Freehand Gallery in Los Angeles, CA; The Orange County Museum of Art in Newport, CA; Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, CA; and Patricia Correia Gallery and The Gallery of Functional Art at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA. He had three solo shows at Bergamot Station, including The Art of the Chair in 1996 and I have a love of things in 1997, based on the prose and poetry of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda, and two shows with wife, Diana, Night Train/Woman As River and As Dreams are Made On - A Tribute to William Shakespeare. Most recently, he exhibited an assemblage at the 2020 Salina Biennial.

William and Diana hosted many memorable gatherings. He was well known as an excellent cook and avid gardener, with a knack for growing things, both in the yard and in pots. An enthusiastic classical guitar player, he collected guitars and even brought instruments to play while working on location. He was also passionate about his many cats, from Weaver and Pablo to Tiger and Scamp. In 2013, he and Diana moved from Los Angeles to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He will be remembered fondly as an enormously talented designer and artist, a loyal and generous colleague and friend, and a son, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and will be greatly missed. A Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 at 11 am in the All Souls Church Chapel, 2952 S Peoria Ave, Tulsa, OK 74114. Casual attire.



To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Matthews, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

All Souls Unitarian Memorial Gardens

2952 S. Peoria Ave, Tulsa, OK 74114

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Visits: 143

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree