Richard Rodgers "Dick" Mason, age 62, died Friday January 4th at Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville, Georgia after a rigorous fight with cancer at both Archbold and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Dick was born December 8, 1950, the son of James and Trudie Mason while they were living in The Cottage on Susina Plantation in Beachton, Georgia. When Dick was still an infant, they moved to Thomasville where he grew up. He attended Thomasville Public Schools until his junior year of high school then transferred and was graduated from Darlington School in Rome, Georgia. He then attended Emory University, Valdosta State College and University of Georgia, Atlanta. During his college years, he developed expertise as a foreign sports car mechanic and carpenter.
In his 22nd year, on Mother’s Day, he experienced a tragic 75-foot fall from a tree that, according to him, “changed his life and redirected it,” leaving him a paraplegic. This never diminished his zest for life, and he was known for overcoming all obstacles. After the accident he stated, "Well, I never did care much for walking anyway." He continued to hunt, fish and work in a very successful thirty-year business, Mason’s Rent-All Center, which he established the year after his accident; nothing slowed him down. In addition to his rental business, he became an excellent gunsmith.
He married Mary Kay Cannon, and they settled in a home they built on an acreage west of Thomasville, where he and a friend planted many acres of pines. Dick and Mary Kay had a son Richard Robert "Dick Bob," who became the pitcher of a local Little League team.
Tragedy found Dick again on April 4, 1997, when he lost Dick Bob and Mary Kay in a fatal car crash. He was at home warming supper for them when he received the terrible news of their deaths. Dick eventually overcame even this loss, saying to his brother Mike, “It’s time to start rebuilding my life.”
A fund to honor the memory of Dick Bob was established at Jerger Elementary School in Thomasville by his grandfather Jimmy Mason. The fund finances programs and initiatives beneficial to Jerger including a scholarship award for a graduating fifth grader. The recipient of this award must exemplify Dick Bob’s attributes, and Dick himself always presented this award to the fifth grader.
Several years after his loss, Dick met Carolyn Shaffer. They were married May 15, 1999 in Denver, Colorado. He later sold his rental business, but continued to work as a gunsmith. Together they designed a beautiful home and built it on an acreage southwest of Cairo where they had longleaf pines planted to restore, for future generations to enjoy, the native longleaf forest destroyed by croplands. It was here that Dick, a NRA Golden Eagle Life member, hunted and fished, even after the onset of his illness, using the motorized wheelchair he created.
Dick was not only a master carpenter, but he was a master of invention and metal work, as well. At an early age, he mounted a lawn mower engine on a bicycle and went zooming around the drive surrounding his parent's home at 1121 Gordon Ave. He recalled having to "sit with his weight a little offset on the seat to counterbalance the weight of the engine." Towards the end of his life, he designed and built a battery powered, four-wheeled drive, articulated wheelchair that he planned to use during deer season. It would reach a speed of 25 MPH. He designed and built hand control systems to operate tractors and devised methods to get himself into their seats independently and work clutches. He plowed fire lanes and did his own controlled burns. He hunted deer from a hydraulic deer stand he received for a birthday, later commenting he wasn’t sure he liked it. His comment: “It makes it too easy to put food on the table.” The walls of their home are lined with the heads of trophy bucks.
He is survived by his “dear and loving” wife, Carolyn; one “wonderful” sister Eleanor Ann Dawson of Rock Hill, South Carolina; two “great” brothers James Michael Mason along with wife Reba of Sopchoppy, Florida, and David Lafayette Mason of Thomasville. He is also survived by an uncle Alfred Heywood Mason of Lloyd, Florida. Surviving nephews are James Christian Mason of Sylvester, Benjamin Wilson Dawson of Orlando, Florida, and Mason Camden Dawson of York, South Carolina. His surviving niece is Laura Amanda Mason of Crawfordville, Florida. He was preceded in death by his parents James S. Mason and Gertrude Rodgers Mason, his late wife Mary Kay Cannon Mason and his son Richard Robert Mason.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Dick Bob Mason Memorial Education Fund at Jerger Elementary School; 1006 S. Broad St.; Thomasville, Georgia 31792