Alfred Mateczun

Obituary of Alfred Joseph Mateczun

CAPT Alfred Joseph Mateczun Jr., MD, USN, MC (Ret) was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 5, 1942 to Margaret Ellen Mateczun and Alfred Joseph Mateczun. Al attended Albuquerque High School where he won first place in the physics division of the science fair and won the Institute of Radio Engineers’ award for a telemetry exhibit he created. When he was 16, he was one of 30 students nationwide to win an all-expense scholarship to a National Science Foundation institute focusing on atmospheric sciences. Al and his late younger brother VADM John Mateczun, MD spent their youth taking apart and rebuilding cars, engines, and other machines, similar to their father who was a Navy Seabee serving in the Pacific during WWII.

In the 1950s, Al built an intercom system connecting their family house to the separate garage where he and John worked together. As teenagers they won five blue ribbons for New Mexico’s best blue corn, sharing green-thumbs with their mother who raised them to be nearly self-sufficient growing fruit, vegetables, and raising chickens and other livestock. Al and John both shared a love for New Mexico Hatch green chile, which Al would order freshly roasted each year to prepare the enchiladas and posole that the family serves every Christmas and New Years. Al was also especially fond of pairing Roquefort cheese and fresh pears on Thanksgivings.

 Al harnessed his incredible intellect as a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy where he graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s of science in engineering. At the Air Force Academy, Al was the assistant element leader of the 21st Squadron, led the development of the cadet broadcasting radio station, was a member of the Photo and Radio Clubs, and participated in lacrosse and wrestling. Al also loved being a falconer; he learned to train falcons, or what they called Nature’s fighter pilots. After graduating, he went on to receive tactical fighter pilot and reconnaissance training at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, and served tours in France and Idaho.

Al then deployed to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam where he flew 200 missions in the RF-4C Phantom reconnaissance plane. During one of these missions, on May 12, 1968, Al took a photograph of a Medal of Honor incident happening in real time as Lt. Col. Joe Jackson rescued a team of Special Forces whose camp on the border of Cambodia was being overrun. To accomplish his mission on a moment's notice Al turned on his cameras, flew 500 feet off the ground, reversed course in the middle of a thunderstorm and successfully avoided several missiles fired on his plane. Until 2002, this photograph held the distinction of being the only image ever taken of a Medal of Honor recipient and crew performing their gallant deed. Al’s unit received three Presidential Unit Citations for their efforts on that day. Additionally, Al received the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 12 Bronze Oak Clusters, a Meritorious Service Medal, a Navy Unit Commendation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award as part of his military service.

After his tour of duty in Vietnam, Al served as a F-111 flight instructor at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada, giving the plane its moniker “the Aardvark.” Al was released from active duty in 1973 having served in the USAF for eight years. With the encouragement of his brother, Al attended the University of New Mexico Medical School, where they both graduated in the class of 1978. He joined the United States Navy through the Senior Medical Student Program and completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Oakland, California. Al went on to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UNM Medical School for his storied career in medicine and the military.

When his sons Alfred E. and Kevin Mateczun were toddlers, Al was stationed in Naples, Italy as the Director of Surgical Services at U.S. Naval Hospital Naples. In 1990, Al became a flight surgeon while he was the Executive Officer of the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, Florida. He was subsequently stationed in Cairo, Egypt as the Commanding Officer of NAMRU-3, Navy Medical Research Unit 3, which was the primary source of infectious disease research in Africa and the Middle East region for the U.S. Navy. Al spent much of his time in Cairo learning about the history of ancient Egypt.

Cairo is also where Al met his future wife Cody Mateczun, who he married in 2004. Cody owned three restaurants with her brother while in Cairo. The first time Al met Cody was at her restaurant through his friend at the U.S. embassy. Cody opened the very first Chinese restaurant in Cairo in 1993, about 200 feet from the pyramids. Before China opened up to the world and Cody left for Egypt, she was a manager at a four star hotel leading a team of 2 dozen people at its rotating restaurant in Chengdu, China. During the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, which was hosted in Beijing China, Cody was named as one of ten outstanding Chinese women that ventured abroad to create their own businesses. China’s CCTV rendered her a visit and created an episode on her story as part of the complete series called ‘Women Entering the World’. In addition to the unparalleled food Cody prepares, Cody and her daughter Catherine brought much love and light to Al’s life. Cody has added to the Mateczun family new food traditions by sharing and hosting her Sichuan style hot-pot often at family and friends’ gatherings. Cody is also an accomplished gardener sharing Al’s mother’s affinity for growing bountiful vegetable and rose gardens. Al also had immense pride in his children, Alfred, Kevin and Catherine, both for their accomplishments and contribution to the world.

 Al became the Commanding Officer of the Biological Defense Research Directorate at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) in Silver Spring, Maryland. During the anthrax attacks immediately following 9/11, Al and his team helped develop a DNA-based vaccine to protect against anthrax using fragments of the bacteria’s own DNA. He also helped to develop a tiered biowarfare agent detection system for U.S. naval ships. Al’s team also participated in the Iraq Survey Group searching for weapons of mass destruction leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Al retired from the Navy in 2004 having served nearly 35 years in the Air Force and Navy.

Al then served many years as a civil servant. He was the Director of the Biological Defense Research Directorate, NMRC, in Frederick, Maryland until 2023. Not only did Al help defend the nation from biological and chemical weapons, he also led the team that developed a successful treatment for multi-drug resistant infections using personalized bacteriophage-based therapies. His work with colleagues at the University of California, San Diego and others helped save the life of a 68-year-old diabetic patient with necrotizing pancreatitis complicated by a multidrug-resistant bacteria. One of Al’s driving forces was the Hippocratic oath, primum non nocere, or, first do no harm. Al encouraged pushing boundaries if it was in the furtherance of helping others, and that it was sometimes better to ask forgiveness rather than for permission. He knew that the best way to protect the world from harm is to spread good and do good.

On October 14, 2023, Al passed away in his beloved home in Frederick, Maryland surrounded by his wife Cody and daughter Catherine. He is survived by his wife Cody Mateczun, his daughter Catherine Mateczun and son-in-law Mathieu Parent, his grandchildren Diane, Celine, Victor and Richard, his son Alfred E. Mateczun, his sister-in-law Elizabeth Holmes, and his nieces and nephew, Laura Mateczun, Erin Johnson and Adam Johnson. He is preceded in death by his parents, his son Kevin Mateczun, and his brother Dr. John Mateczun.

Al will be laid to rest at the Santa Fe National Cemetery in New Mexico, where his parents are also buried. In lieu of flowers the family asks that memorial gifts be made to the Mateczun Endowed Scholarship for Veterans (610462) at the University of New Mexico. Memorial contributions can be mailed to the UNM Foundation, Two Woodward Center, 700 Lomas Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102 or made online at Donors, please add to the Comments or Instructions box this information: In memory of Alfred Mateczun, for 610462. Condolences may be made by using the Memories tab on this page. Please include a note stating whom the gift memorializes.

Alfred Mateczun


Family Hour at Rollins Life Celebration Center

330 Catoctin Ave.

Frederick, Maryland 21701

                                                                                Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

                                                                                           12:30 - 1:00pm EST


Celebration of Life Service at Rollins Life Celebration Center

330 Catoctin Ave.

Frederick, Maryland 21701

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

1:00 - 2:00pm EST


Celebration of Life at Riverside Funeral Home

3232 Cerrillos Road

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507

Friday, November 17th, 2023

10:00 - 11:30pm MST


Interment at Santa Fe National Cemetery

501 North Guadalupe Street

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Friday, November 17th, 2023

12:00 - 1:00pm MST


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