In the minds of everyone who knew Richard Stewart Mason, affectionately known as “Dick” by his friends, he was only 98 years young when he passed away May 7th from an apparent cardiac arrest at his home in Rancho Bernardo.
“Dick” Mason was born in State College, PA on New Year’s Eve in 1921, the only child of Charles Russell Mason and Elizabeth (Stewart) Mason. He grew up in Sanford, Florida; received a BA degree at the University of Texas, and a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and met his wife Sheila Farquharson in Jamaica where he was stationed during the war.
After the war, he began his career as a Russian analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he worked until his retirement in 1972. In the 1960s he was an interpreter for several Russian and American trade delegations that visited the two countries. He was a lifelong devotee of foreign languages, with fluency in Russian and German, and teaching himself Spanish, Japanese, Farsi, and Indonesian, among others.
He and Sheila were both competitive ballroom dancers, and from that involvement, they founded Telemark Dance Records, which produced and sold ballroom dance music. He also published a monthly newsletter called “Potomac Ballroom.”
When he moved to San Diego in 2000, he threw himself into volunteer work, especially with the Rancho Bernardo High School Library, where he founded the RBHS “Friends of the Library” which has raised millions of dollars for the library.
Dick Mason came to Rancho Bernardo High School in a very unexpected way. He was not an alumni, nor alumni parent, nor interested community leader or school administrator. In the words of Frances French on May 2, 2014 for his Induction into the Rancho Bernardo Hall of Fame:
In 2003 severe budget cuts took away a library assistant position from each of the Poway Unified high school libraries and took away the budget for purchasing new library materials. When Dick read about this tragedy he didn’t just complain about the situation but he decided to do something about it…. In seeking a solution to the budget cuts, Dick Mason approached Principal, Paul Robinson and in the manner he was so famous for — loaded with drive and energy; and “No” not being in his vocabulary. Soon, the founder of the Friends of the Library was well on his way to establish the non-profit organization, RBHS Friends of the Library.
For nearly two decades Dick continued to seek funding and support for the library so that in time, the library collection became the envy of all the other Poway District high schools.
At Rancho Bernardo High School he organized an annual poetry contest for students, in Spanish, German, and French. He was recognized as “Volunteer of the Year” by Rancho Bernardo in 2014 and was inducted last year into the first annual “Hall of Fame” of Rancho Bernardo High School. He died in a hospital just a few blocks from that school.
Throughout his life he was devoted to education and politics to create a better world. He campaigned for numerous candidates for elected office, from the local to the national level, and did door-to-door canvasing up into his nineties. He initiated and led several projects to advance education, literacy, and cultural awareness, including in 2012 the “$50 Billion Club” to promote increased investment in education in California.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife Sheila. He is survived by his loving companion Joan Ballard. He is also survived by his son David (Sharon); his daughter Marion Strandh (Lennart); four grandchildren: Dana Goodson (Brian), Melanie Macey (Edward); Daniel Strandh (Marla); and Trevor Strandh (Rachel); and nine great-grandchildren: Kathryn, Elizabeth and Daniel Macey; Mariah and Sylvie Goodson; Connor and Mason Strandh; and Josie and Julia Strandh.
Prior to his passing, Dick Mason requested that Memorial remembrance contributions be made to the Rancho Bernardo High School Friends of the Library. Donations can be made directly online by clicking here or mailed to: RBHS Friends of the Library, 13010 Paseo Lucido, San Diego, CA 92128. He asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Rancho Bernardo High School Friends of the Library.
Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, a memorial service in Rancho Bernardo will be postponed until a later date.
–Excerpts taken from Press Release written by Alexa Clausen, FOL Member and bio written by Dave Mason, son of Richard Mason