Amherst Magazine

Benjamin Allen Mason '62

Submitted by Craig H. Morgan

From The Olio

Mason BENJAMIN ALLEN MASON
6 Seabury Place, Waterbury, Vermont.
Prepared at Waterbury High School.
English.
Chi Phi, Vice-president.
Sailing Club. Chest Drive.
Harlan Fiske Stone Law Society. OLIO

Benjamin Allen (Ben) Mason ''62 died Apil 14, 1991.
(view alumni profile - Log-in required)

In Memory

If was all too quick, too soon; we do not die at 50. We are eternally 24, invincible.

As I left Riverside Cathedral April 17,1991,1 had never felt more alone. I clutched a single- sheet program, a piece of paper, for Chrissake; that's all that was left of a 30-year friendship. I hurt. And I missed my friend. He had always been there, since we were teenagers, since 1960. He was with me the night before I got married, and some years later, I did the same for him. However long a time might have elapsed since we last talked or laughed or hugged or cried or bitched about life, we always picked it up right where we had left it. No excuses needed, none offered. That was Ben.

We would always be 24, invincible, proud, and strong.

One of the most remarkable aspects of that April day a year ago was the coming together of all sorts of disparate elements of our friend's life. There was someone from each facet of his charmed existence. There were friends from his gay life, there were family members, his former wife beside his current lover, one friend exclusively from the Amherst connection. A special responsibility, a special role tor me. A sister and brother from the "older family," his sister from the "younger" family: the Mason parents, you see, really had two pairs of children, each close together, a boy and a girl. Ben's younger sister Ann first danced into my life at the end of Ben's junior year at Amherst, when his father's class had its reunion. A tender and gentle 15 or 16 then, she totally charmed me. Heavy now with grief, she was changed, burdened, grayed; weighted by the event and the realization that death was present, possible, even at 50.

My God, we can't die: we are 24 forever, invincible and omnipotent.

The invitation to Ben's 50th birthday party (from his companion, Joseph) arrived after I had left for three weeks in Spain in the fall of 1990, as a part of my sabbatical year. There was no way to fix that. I should have thought...I should have planned better...! should have...Ben saved some of the 50-year-old port from his birthday for me to share the last time we were together in December 1990. He was too tired and too weak to enjoy it. One should be able to enjoy.

But, dammit, we're 24 still, we can fight this thing.

You see, that's the awful thing about AIDS. It kills slowly, insidiously. It takes the fight out of you. Eventually. But while there is some hope, some strength, there is fight. Fighting took Ben to Paris for medication and treatment, twice annually for years. Even the City of Light couldn't burn out the shadowy plague which has taken so many of our best and our brightest.

We 'II always be 24, strong, proud, able to take on the world.

Ben lived a love of music, of the dance, appreciating the very finest in performance. The music and the words of the memorial service revealed much. We all discovered things we hadn't known about our friend in life, on that rainy April day after his death. Maybe God was weeping, a little, at the loss of a true connoisseur. (Ben deMott would hate most of this, I suspect.) Ben Mason was an appreciator, a critic, and a tastemaker. His opinions were strong and personal;his arguments clear, crisp, and concise. He admired lean and tight, to the point, and never accepted the maudlin.

There I stood with a stupid piece of paper in my hand, on a cold rainy New York City street. Alone. The paper, tatty in my hand, was a final death. Being in print makes it final.

And so I realized with anger and chagrin that we were no longer 24; one of us was dead, the other was 49.

Now I'm 50, and my world is emptier for the absence of my friend. Death is no easier to accept.

----PETER KERNS '63

Ben's brother Peter prepared the following piece for Ben's memorial service on April 17,1991--

     Benjamin Allen Mason was born on October 11,1940 in Burlington, VT, and died in New York City on April 14,1991. He was the son of William and Mary-Scott Mason of Waterbury, VT. He left one brother, Peter Mason of Altadena, CA, and two sisters, Joan Pelton of Waterbury, and Ann Courchaine of Cambridge, MA., and companion Joseph Riccio of New York City. He was married to Jacqueline Damian from 1969 to 1978 and they remained close friends until the end of his life.
     Ben graduated from Waterbury High School in 1958, graduated from Amherst with a bachelor's in English, and in 1973 received a master's in journalism from the University of Illinois.
     Air Force service from 1962 to 1967 took him all over the US, to the Philippines and Vietnam, leaving with the rank of captain. He worked as a reporter for the Providence Journal from 1967 to 1971. Upon leaving the University of Illinois in 1973, he joined the staff of Electronics Magazine, where he held several positions, the last as Executive Editor. He was also an editor for High Performance Systems.
     Ben had an interest in beauty and elegance in many forms: in the written word, in the dance, in the arts, in fine cars and in his personal life. He was an enthusiastic patron of the dance and the arts, and he supported them both by attendance and by contributions. He found Manhattan an ideal place to live because of the wealth of opportunities to attend theater and dance events and art shows, and never considered living elsewhere, except perhaps Paris.
     He was reserved, not demanding from others that they participate in his inner life. But he cared deeply about those he loved, and expressed his care in attention and devotion. He considered what he could give to each person and gave it to the best of his considerable ability. His friends and relatives remember especially his thoughtful gifts: they were always unique and memorable, and always particularly suited to the recipient.
     He loved reading and the use of words to express thoughts clearly and if possible, elegantly. He was considered a first-rate editor because he wanted the words to say what was intended and he also wanted them presented in an attractive format; he knew how to achieve the results he wanted. He read widely and was knowledgeable in a wide range of subjects, from literature to arts to current events.
     From his early childhood he was interested in automobiles. He drew them, he could identify the most obscure car on the road, he owned a succession of interesting and stylish cars, and he visited automobile collections and car shows whenever he could.
     Ben was laid to rest in a peaceful and beautiful graveyard in his hometown of Waterbury. He asked that some of his ashes be scattered in the green hills that he loved, and this was done by family and friends.