It’s a Family Affair: A Legacy of Love and Togetherness at a Tippy Retreat

By+Kathy Jonas

Photography by David Hubler


SYRACUSE - There’s a webcam perched on a high chair in the Tippecanoe Lake home of Dr. Jay and Mary Ann Matchett. 


That kind of says all you need to know about this close-knit and fiercely loyal family. The camera allows family members to have a moment “at the lake” any time of the day or night. Their ties to Indiana’s deepest natural lake go back way before the cottage was renovated into its current status: a 4,800 square-foot, six bedroom, Craftsman-style weekend retreat.


The Matchett Compound

Jay points at the relatively small red brick house across the channel and said that’s where it all started. “The house belongs to my parents,” said Jay, an orthopedic surgeon who also happens to be the team physician for the Ball State University football and basketball teams. “We’ve been coming here since 1958.” 


He and his siblings spent every summer there but when they got older and had children, bought places nearby. Jay and Mary Ann purchased the home across the channel from the red brick house back in 1988. The entire family spent weekends and summers there. Jay’s uncles also bought cottages nearby. 


“It had a very small kitchen,” Mary Ann said of their original cottage. “When you were unloading the dishwasher no one could help because there wasn’t room!” The upstairs (connected by a very steep staircase) was quite small and had one room for the boys and one room for the girls. There were significant water issues due to the lower elevation of the original cottage. 


Mary Ann said as the children started moving out, getting married and having children, the two of them began asking themselves what was important. “We thought to ourselves, where do we want to be in retirement?


“We basically decided we wanted to be here and make the house comfortable for our kids to bring their families.” Their children (twin boys and two girls) try to come every weekend they can, despite very busy schedules. With Jay and several of the children and spouses in the medical profession, common free time is sometimes difficult to find.


Rooms with a View

The remodeling, which involved gutting the original cottage, began with a drawing on a napkin. Mary Ann laughs that Jay likes to hold onto things and her personality is more one of letting go. Predictably, Jay drew a design on a napkin that was pretty much the same as the old home. Their son-in-law helped get them started and then Jeff Helman of HELMAN SECHRIST Architecture took over.


“One of the most gratifying parts of working on waterfront properties is when that property is a ‘legacy home,’ “ Helman said. He explained that legacy homes is a term for the family who has a long history and great memories of the home and is a part of the family’s culture.


“The inspiration and guiding principle for the home was always based on one thing; family fun and togetherness! The home needed to accommodate their children and grandchildren (and future grandchildren) with ease, making it fun to occupy but also easy to care for,” Helman said. 


Durable floorings and wall finishes gave the home a very cozy “cottage feel.” It also was designed to be energy efficient and capable of performing well in the winter as well as the summer. 


“Obviously, like most waterfront properties, the design had to capitalize on all the wonderful views and all rooms had to be able to see the lake,” he said.


What We Love

• A large room above the garage with a table tennis table and a couch from the original cottage. It is a kind of “get away” space.


• Mary Ann can see everyone who is coming and going from her desk in her office. “It’s like NASA control,” she said.


• The breeze way area connects to the channel side so little kids and big kids can access a restroom and shower.


• No televisions are allowed in the bedrooms. The Matchetts believe that at the lake, the family should come together in the open main area. 


• The nautical bunkroom has knotty pine walls salvaged from the original home. 


• The master bedroom or “Fortress of Solitude” includes custom details such as a circular window complete with a shade to fit it and lots of privacy.


• Each of their children decorated their own bedrooms – all in different shades of blue, the predominant color in the home. Each bedroom has a spectacular view of the lake. 


• A huge white table made in Shipshewana seats 10 people very comfortably.


• Every Fourth of July, you can hear “Stars and Stripes Forever” coming from the player piano during the family’s own cake walk.


Tradition! Tradition!

The most beloved of the many Matchett traditions are the sourdough pancakes made every Saturday morning by Jay’s mother. The kids come from Indy and Muncie to stand in line waiting for the delicious pancakes made from scratch from a “starter” mix. 


“The kids are obsessed with them,” Mary Ann said. Jay’s sisters, Sue and Nancy, help with the pancake and sausage extravaganza that starts about 9 or 10 a.m. “The kids have numerous childhood friends who still come to the lake and always ask whether they will get to have Grandmother’s sourdoughs,” she said.


The couple complimented the builder, Coplen Construction, of Warsaw, for helping them build a comfortable and functional home that will accommodate future generations. “We want our grandkids to have the special lake memories that their parents had,” Mary Ann said.