Robert Henry Masson

Robert Henry Masson
Robert Henry Masson1

Bob and I grew up in adjacent towns near Boston and met first at age ten as fellow conscripts in dancing school. It marked the beginning of a sixty-three year friendship.
Later there was Amherst, in our last year as roommates and freshman advisors living in Stearns. OCS in Pensacola, FL, and primary flight training followed—still roommates!

Bob served five years as a US Naval Aviator that included the honor of being selected as an original fleet-introduction pilot for the Sikorsky Sea King SH-3 helicopter. Harvard Business School with a degree in finance was next with the added significance for Bob being that his father, Robert L. Masson, had been professor of finance at HBS and that, years later, Bob’s son, Robert L. Masson, would graduate from HBS with a degree in finance. Bob also took great pleasure in noting that both sons followed his footsteps to US Naval Air.

Bob’s career spanned forty years in corporate finance at Ford, Knutson Construction, Ellerbe Architects, PepsiCo, and Combustion Engineering (now ABB) before he retired in 2002 as senior vice president of finance and administration of Parsons Whittemore, a global pulp and paper producer. 
In retirement, he delighted in enthusiastically sharing his business expertise with others by serving on the boards of select public and private firms and charities, and he was particularly dedicated to the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, where he served as trustee and financial committee chairman. There is a helicopter at the Museum with “LT Robert H. Masson” stenciled on the side: a testimony by others to the energy and spirit he brought to that institution. 

Last summer, when I moved back from Mexico, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Bob on his boat . . . he surely loved that boat!  The boat, Sea Wings, was flag blue with a gold cove stripe and, as you might guess, a purple boot-topping stripe.

As the summer wore on and boating was not possible for him, we spent countless hours together in what turned out to be a long reflective discussion that I believe in some way changed each of us just a little for the better.

Bob attended every home and away Amherst football game for fourteen years, and we talked about his love of mentoring scholar-athletes at Amherst for the US Navy SEAL Program, US Naval Air or the Harvard Business School. Although he never mentioned it, his generosity in providing a boost for people, young and otherwise, extended far beyond Amherst. When asked, he would do it. It was always a boost, not a free pass. 

We talked of our parents and of being parents and the hard work and pure luck that went into it that, at last, we both appreciated.  

We talked about friends, old and new, adventures, the mountains and ocean that we both loved, mistakes along the way and how we’d like to be remembered.

Finally, we talked about our fears of dying and death.  
I’m grateful for the year I had reconnecting with Bob. He was a good friend, actually more like a brother. I’ll miss him and the unfailing optimism that defined him.

Bob died peacefully in the early morning of March 31, 2008, in Greenwich, CT, his home for the past thirty years.  It had been a remarkable five-year contest with cancer. He was interred at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich with full military honors. 

He is survived by his wife, Virginia (Ginnie) Morton Masson, with whom he celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in December. He also is survived by daughter Linda M. Bailey of Greenwich, CT; sons CDR Kenneth M. Masson of Alexandria, VA, and Robert L. Masson of Wellesley, MA; his sisters, Helen Vorys of Yarmouth, MA, and Jane Jackson of Cleveland, OH; ten nieces and nephews; and nine beautiful grandchildren that Bob always saw as the best prize of all in a long wonderful life that included much else in the way of achievement and recognition.

—Tom Cody ’57