The Rev. John Martin Mason III
March 16, 1937 – May 12, 2012
The Rev. John Martin Mason III completed his life Saturday, May 12, 2012. He was born to John and Mertrice (Herfindahl) Mason on March 16, 1937, and was baptized by his
father in Drake, N.D.
He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith October 26, 1952, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stanley. He attended high schools in Stanley and Minneapolis before enrolling at St. Olaf College. Majoring in philosophy and classical languages, he graduated magna cum laude from St. Olaf in June 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
That fall, he realized his long-standing intention, beginning studies at Luther Theological Seminary. He spent his year of internship at Wahpeton, N.D., under the wonderful guidance of The Rev. Loyal Golf, and graduated Luther in 1963 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Over 37 years of parish ministry, John served parishes in Beaver Dam and Oconomowoc and Trinity Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Wash.
John delivered his first sermon in his junior year at Luther Seminary, and the class sat silent for several long moments when he finished. Then the legendary homiletics teacher, professor Arndt Halvorson, spoke up. “John, you’ve cast a spell over us. The ability to do this cannot be taught. It’s a gift. Continue to preach grace via stories through the years ahead.” This John did throughout his ministry.
John said his call to serve did not come by a blinding light or a heavenly voice. He was a thirdgeneration Lutheran minister who received the call through the example of his parents. As a child in Brandon, S.D., he would stand leaning against his father’s leg on Sunday morning, watching him greet his people after service. His dad would welcome each by name, from infants in arms to elderly folks, and John would sense how much their pastor meant to them. Afternoons, he would return from school to find homeless men who were riding the rails in search of work, sitting at the kitchen table. As famished men devoured soup and homemade bread and thick wedges of rhubarb pie, his mother would introduce them, calling each by name. From his parents, he learned the ministry of sharing God’s love with each and every person he met. Whether it was a cashier at the grocery store or a busy busboy scurrying to clear tables, no one escaped John’s beaming smile and positive affirmations that were the hallmark of his ministry inside and outside of the church.
John was entirely devoted to his family. His beloved wife, Sallie, became a partner in his ministries, with all the public duties of the pastor’s wife including, in Sallie’s case, singing solos on Sunday mornings. She was the partner who supported a husband who could be called out at any time of day or night to attend a sick parishioner, a difficult birth or a death. In John’s last years, Sallie, a veteran nurse, was her husband’s loving caretaker.
Recalling her father, daughter Melanie writes: “I think everyone in our high school knew who our dad was – he was the one kneeling on the sidelines with a giant telephoto Nikon firmly affixed to his face. As a teenager, it could be embarrassing at times, but we also knew what an enormous display of love it was. Whether it be cheerleading, baseball or a band concert, he was there.”
John was a legendary hunter and fisherman. His children, nieces and nephews all hold wonderful memories of how skilled he was at fishing, how intensely he concentrated on the task and his passion for teaching them. Nephew Peder Kjeseth writes: “Uncle John, I want to thank you for passing on to me the love of the outdoors. The love of fishing, and the love of all God’s creatures great and small. When I wade my beloved trout streams, rod in hand and hope in heart, I know I am there surrounded by the beauty of this natural world because of you.” Son John writes: “A more exciting and magical fisherman I will never meet again!!!”
John leaves us as one who made a difference in all our lives, whether we are one of his family or one of the great, great many of those to whom he ministered, right up until his last days.
John Mason is survived by his wife, Sallie (nee Wittkopp) Mason; his son, John Martin Mason IV; his daughter, Melanie Lou (Ben) Webster; his grandsons, Owen and Travis Webster; a sister, Solveig (Peter) Kjeseth; his brothers, Daniel (Caroline) Mason and Timothy (Leo Geter) Mason; and cousins, nieces, nephews and a host of loving parishioners beyond number.
He was preceded in death by a sister, Martha, who died in infancy, and his parents.
Memorial contributions are suggested to Trinity Lutheran Church, 309 W. 39th St., Vancouver, WA 98660 (360-695-1221); and/or the Clark County Food Bank, P.O. Box 61833, Vancouver, WA 98666 (360-693-0939).
Vancouver Funeral Chapel, 360-693-3633, is in care of the arrangements. Please visit online to sign John’s guest book, www.vancouverfuneralchapel.net.