Peter William Mason, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Purple Heart recipient
Peter William Mason died on June 18, 2017 at the Equinox Terrace Assisted Living Community in Manchester, Vermont. His wife, Marguerite, and his black Labrador retriever Callie were with him.
Peter was born in Hamilton, Ohio, (a situation which he shamelessly exploited in later years by addressing all of his clients from Ohio as “Fellow Buckeyes”). His parents were William Mason, and Elizabeth Hall Mason, both of whom loved to fish, which is probably why they chose a fisherman for their son’s patron saint. Later, his wife would observe that petrus is the Latin word for “rock”, which, in many ways, also made his name appropriate.
When Peter was five his family moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, where, often, Peter played catch after school with his next-door-neighbor, a Bob Feller. In 1938, the Masons moved to Longmeadow, Massachusetts during the very middle of the great hurricane of 1938. (This may have been the reason, why, in later years, Peter was an avid Weather Channel viewer.) Peter attended Classical High School in Springfield, Mass., where he played football which he loved and ran track because his football coach wanted him to stay in shape. Probably to spite his coach, he won the Massachusetts High School State championship in both the 100 and 200 yard sprints.
During World War II, he was a volunteer firefighter in the town of Longmeadow, an air warden, and annually raised an enormous victory garden. He spent his senior year at the Lenox Episcopal School for Boys in Lenox, Massachusetts, which he hated. (Later, when asked if he would rather go back to his prep school or Marine Corps Boot Camp, he emphatically chose Parris Island).
In the fall of 1948, Peter enrolled in Ohio Wesleyan College as journalism major and enrolled in the United States Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course, completing Officer Candidate School during the summers following his freshman and sophomore years.
He was called to active duty (during an American History class) in January 1950, and landed in the Republic of South Korea five days later. After some fierce fighting (he was in the second wave of the invasion of Seoul), he was ordered back to the US to attend aviator training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. He returned to Korea as a close air support officer in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. As a forward air controller, during the infamous “war on the hills,” Peter, along with his radioman L.Cpl. Gino Fusillo, and their rifleman Sgt. Gorge Washington Nero, would be dropped behind enemy lines, call in airstrikes on the target, and then head out, with all due haste, to return to their own territory. (It was during this period that Peter developed his enthusiasm for Peter Paul Mounds candy bars, because he could keep them in his fatigue pants pockets where they would just squish when he hit the ground, instead of bruising his shins). As the war settled into a long, bloody stalemate, Peter earned three Purple Heart Medals, two Bronze Stars, and when he rather foolishly called in airstrikes on his own position because his unit was being overrun, a Silver Star which was pinned on his fatigues by the legendary Marine Corps General Chesty Puller.
Among Peter’s Marine memories: In February 1953, he was at K-13 airbase in Suwon when Marine Pilot Ted Williams landed his flaming Panther aircraft to the great relief of Red Sox fans everywhere. And, the time, while on leave in Washington, D.C., when Peter bought President Harry Truman two chocolate doughnuts.
After his service in the Marine Corps, Peter lived on Marblehead, Massachusetts, where began his career in publishing, working for McCall’s magazine as the New England Sales Manager. In 1969, in the same capacity, he moved to McCall’s New York office. There he shared an office with the magazine’s fiction editor, Joseph Heller, who frequently asked Peter to edit the magazine’s monthly short story, because he was totally absorbed working on his novel (published in 1958 as Catch 22).
In a 1967, Peter moved several blocks down Madison Avenue in New York to work for the New York office of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, the flagship publication the of the Des Moines-based Meredith Publishing Company. He continued his role as New England manger, while over the years adding responsibility for such diverse advertising categories as china and silver, home building and improvement, and ladies lingerie.
In 1985, Peter was named director of the Meredith Travel Marketing Group. Over the years, he expanded his staff to 21 sales representatives and increased sales from $800,000 in 1985 to $21.7 million before he retired.
Over that period, he served as president of four different travel organizations, including the Travel Industry of America, whose Board of Directors awarded him their highest award for “his long and dedicated support and significant contribution to the programs and activities of state tourism offices.”
As an expert and spokesman for the state travel industry, he was widely quoted in such publications USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many travel industry publications. He often appeared on such television programs as the Today Show, Good Morning America, the CNN Morning Show, and the American Public Media radio program Marketplace. He was much in demand as a speaker and a panelist, presenting keynote addresses at 48 major travel industry meetings.
During the 37 years that Peter worked for “Mother Meredith,” he and his family lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where his children attended the Ridgefield Public Schools, and where in 1991, after “a long courtship” he married his wife, Marguerite (aka “Muggsy”, “Oso”, and “the Bear”).
Peter was a passionate about fishing, gardening, football and the Boston Red Sox. In 2004, after Peter finally retired, (after 50 years in publishing), he and his wife moved to their now “full time” home in Weston, Vermont, where he immediately asked a neighbor to plow up the back yard for an enormous garden, and stocked the pond with trout.
He was a member of the Wantastiquet Trout Club in Weston, and carried a collapsible fishing rod on all of his business trips. (His wife often found worms or “wooly buggers” in his suit pants pocket.) He wore red socks everyday after he retired from the Marine Corps to advertise his allegiance to his baseball team. He also was ardent fan of the New England Patriots, having bought season tickets to the Boston Patriots at the beginning of their first season in the American Football League.
A man of limitless intellectual curiosity and spirit of adventure, Peter loved to travel. He and his wife Marguerite visited England 25 times, where, in separate trips they visited every National Trust Garden from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Commencing in 1993, they also visited France annually, always beginning their journeys in Paris, and ending them In Provence. They visited WWI and WWII military cemeteries and memorials, including on multiple visits to the Invasion Beaches in Normandy, Point du Hoc, and the Normandy American Cemetery. They followed (by car!) the route of the Tour de France, collected “brocante,” and bought a lot of nice clothes for Marguerite.
In addition to Marguerite and Callie, Peter is survived by two lion-hearted British Shorthair Cats: Sir Winston Churchill and Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst. He is also by survived by his four children: His oldest son Steven, Steven’s fiancé Courtney Grier, Peter’s newest grandchild Cooper William (born on March 20, 2017), Steven’s daughters Elizabeth and Lauren and their mother Paula Mason, all of Darien, Connecticut, his second son Scott Mason, Scott’s wife Jennifer Mason, and their three daughters, Heather, Tori, and Lindsay and their son David, who live in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Peter’s daughter Heidi Mason Black , her husband Peter Black,, and their three sons Hunter, Craig, and Charlie Black from Park City, Utah and his youngest son Craig Mason of Chelsea, Mass.
Peter’s funeral will be a Eucharistic Service at Zion Episcopal Church at 11 a.m. on July 8, 2017.
There will be a party afterward in the church hall, where we will all tell funny stories about Peter. Finally, Marguerite and Callie wish to express their profound thanks to the nurses and aides of Equinox Terrace for their many kindnesses, good humor, and moral support over the past four and one-half years. We will always love you. You have been a real family for us, and we will never stop thanking God for your presence in our lives when we needed you so much.
Peter has asked that any contributions in appreciation of his service to our county be made to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, whose mission is to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other need-based assistance to active-duty and retired sailors and Marines, their eligible family members, and survivors. (www.nmcrs.org.)