UPDATE: We recently learned that William Matelyan died in July after being hit by a car on North Figueroa Street in Cypress Park; he was 84. LA DOT was planning to improve pedestrian and bike safety on that stretch of road, before the project was stopped by LA City Councilman Gil Cedillo.
Matelyan tragically died at 12:30pm on July 22, 2014, after complications resulting from being hit by an automobile earlier that morning. Matelyan had just gotten off the phone with local pastor Jesse Rosas prior to his accident. ... Rosas estimated during his podium time speech at the (memorial) service that Matelyan had crossed Figueroa for his morning ritual of coffee at the Yum Yum Donuts near Avenue 26 when he was accidentally hit. -- LA1 News
Here's Jerry Gorin's piece on Matelyan from September, 2012:
There are always three cars parked at the intersection of Cypress Avenue and Figueroa, along with a companion RV parked at the Union 3 auto body shop on the corner. Each vehicle is covered bumper to bumper in bible verse and posters of lions and eagles. There are American and Israeli flags waving over the windows, and newspaper clippings from the Vatican. "Repent," appears over and over, "for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This is the home and headquarters of William Matelyan, a spirited Korean War veteran who's on a crusade to save mankind.
Matelyan was born Jewish. His parents were Austrian immigrants who changed their names and fled Nazi Europe. They settled in Philadelphia, re-opened their old tailoring business, and tried to ignore their Jewish background.
"My parents told me, ‘Don't tell anyone you're a Jew’," says Matelyan. "And soon I said, ‘Why? I'm a man, and a Jew. What's the difference?’"
When asked if he considers himself Jewish now, Matelyan answers, "Yeah, in fact a completed Jew. A messianic Jew.
"I was (once) a wicked person. I went to Korea, to fight in the Korean War. I was drinking at that time. I had Canadian Club; I took about one third, and I hit the ground and started to vomit. I heard a voice say, ‘You're going to go to war’. I said, ‘I'm in one.’ And God says, ‘This is for the truth. You're going to work for me. You're going to take my word out there and get killed, the same as you do for America.' Matelyan then sings the Battle Hymn of the Republic as he relishes the memory.
After the war Matelyan started looking for work as a house painter, and he and his wife and children moved to LA, where there was painting work year-round. He would end up working for 35 years as the Painting Supervisor at East LA College, where he also gave informal music lessons to students. When he retired he could no longer afford his rent, so he moved out.
"I lived in Elysian Valley," he says, "and I finally moved out of a rented house into an RV. I was parking the RV on the street, and the city was going to penalize me, either by putting me in jail or a $1000 fine. They didn't carry the threat out, but I didn't let them. I went over and told Carlos, and he said he had a spot for me. So he let me come and park here."
About three years ago, Carlos Cruz, the owner of Union 3 auto body shop, let Matelyan move his RV onto his lot permanently, and that's where it stands today. Cruz and his workers makes a big racket everyday, just 20 feet from the RV, but Matelyan doesn’t let it bother him. He's made it as cozy as possible.
"We got Gardenias, Chile plants, tomatoes – an apricot tree from a seed. This is like the Garden of Eden. And the word of God is out here for everyone to see. It's free!"
On the other side of the RV, his messianic clunkers are parked right on Figueroa Street.
"I move them around, I keep them here. It's a moving, preaching, word of God. I park at IHOP and hand out gospel tracks, because that's the menu."
Matelyan tries to spread the word as much as he can, but lately he's been disappointed with his audience. He blames poor political leadership, and Americans' ongoing obsession with money.
Still, he believes that when the time comes and the pressure builds, most people will repent.