“We won’t stop until we find the ruthless bastard that killed my brother,” said Donna Matthews-Hicks, Matthews’ sister, via an interview through Facebook Messenger. Matthews-Hicks found it easier to speak about her brother and the incident this way.
Cape Breton Regional Police Services confirmed it was Matthews they found dead in his Prince Street apartment on Tuesday. It was located in the Prince Street Market in Sydney, which Matthews owned.
Police are treating it as a homicide and the major crime unit and forensic identification section are leading the ongoing investigation.
Matthews grew up in Sydney Mines. He was the fifth of seven children and the only boy.
His parents were the late George and Jean Matthews, who both died before him. His mother died of cancer when Matthews was 10, so his father raised the seven kids alone. His father died in 2007.
People who knew Matthews growing up would remember him working on the milk truck, Saturday mornings and before school, when he was 10.
“People in that town watched him grown into a handsome, charming, hard worker,” praised Matthews-Hicks, who was two years younger and very close to her brother.
After graduating high school, Matthews earned his business degree from St. Francis Xavier University and went on to work for London Life in Halifax.
Matthews later opened Matthews McDonough Financial Planning Inc. with Justin McDonough.
In Halifax, he lived with his longtime partner, Stephen Couban, well-known in the medical community in the city.
“Jim loved life and was the most positive person I knew. He was never, ever negative,” said Matthews-Hicks.
“I want people to know, if you interviewed him today about this tragedy, he would find the positive in it. That is who he was,” she added.
Matthews’ love for Sydney led to his passion for revitalizing the downtown core and the economy. He owned several office buildings, a home on Park Street and the Prince Street Market, where Doktor Luke’s coffee shop is located.
Julie Sutherland, co-owner of Doktor Luke’s, said they were “shocked, overwhelmed and very sad” to hear the news of Matthew’s death.
“He was a very professional person but also a very personally engaged person. So he took good care to make sure that we knew him as a whole person, not just as a businessperson,” she explained.
Sutherland saw first-hand his passion for rebuilding the economy in Cape Breton.
“We worked really hard to build up this café, but the freedom that he gave us to let it be what it is, was because of his generous and dedicated personality,” she explained.
Matthews-Hicks said her brother loved to travel but his heart was always at home.
“He took his creativity and money to bring life back to Sydney and Cape Breton,” she said. “His vision for the Prince Street Market was epic. He would say, ‘Donna, Sydney can be booming.’ He believed in the people.”
Devoted to his family, Matthews never missed the yearly hiking trip with his partner, sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews, at their cottage in Groves Point.
“He loved Sydney and he believed in Sydney,” said Matthews-Hicks.
“He travelled the world and lost his life in the place he loved the most.”