He was raised in the small Indian town of Mahabubabad in the state now named Telangana.
As a young man, Prabhaker’s thirst for knowledge was so great that be barely took time to eat, Kiron said.
“He would sacrifice sleep and food for just wanting to focus on his learning and reading,” he said.
That quest for knowledge never waned, said Prabhaker’s wife, Kalyani Mateti.
“He loved to read. Give him a book, give him a computer, and he was a happy camper,” she said.
Prabhaker also had an unwavering moral compass, Kalyani said.
“He always honored his word. He would never play games,” she said. “He was honest and forthright. Nothing was a secret. He never kept anything from me.”
Prabhaker Mateti was the first from his family to attend college and eventually received his Master’s degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. In America, he earned his doctorate in computer science at the University of Illinois in 1976 when the field was in its infancy.
Kiron, now 36, said his father placed the same high expectations on his young sons attending Beavercreek schools as he demanded from his university students. But over the years the stern fatherly lectures eased into gentle advice, Kiron said.
“As I grew up, he grew softer, I think that we started to really bond,” he said. “And then he grew even softer when I started having kids.”
He doted on his grandchildren, introducing them to science and Indian culture but also spoiled them with jelly beans, according to the family.
Prabhaker Mateti enjoyed traveling, cooking, music and could fix anything — often after consulting a book, his wife said.
Kiron said his dad was “super careful” about protecting himself from the virus but had to have a heart procedure in early December. Within days he fell ill with COVID-19. Prabhaker was eventually transported to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he died.
Kalyani said she is getting counseling and a sister continues to stay with her through a “very, very hard — impossible” time.
“I have so much grief right now that I am taking one day at a time,” she said.
After a Hindu service and traditional cremation, family members immersed some of Prabhaker’s ashes along with flowers into the Little Miami River.
The ritual allows the soul peace and salvation in the afterlife and immersing the ashes in a flowing river also lets the living let go of the attachment to a loved one’s physical body by sending it back to the universe.
Kalyani said she will one day return to India and immerse the remainder of Prabhaker’s ashes into one of the holy rivers flowing through the country of his birth.
The Dr. Prabhaker Mateti Memorial Scholarship has been created at Wright State University. Anyone wishing to donate, can follow the “Make a gift” link at the bottom of the main WSU web page at www.wright.edu. Select the option to “Designate a gift to a department of area” and in the search box type a portion of the scholarship name.