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Dick Mason Passes away at age 93:
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
May 13, 2020
11:13 AM
Richard “Dick” Mason did not have a grandchild or great-grandchild at Rancho Bernardo High School, but when he learned in 2003 that school district budget cuts meant no new library materials at the campus, he resolved to do something about it.
That something was founding the Rancho Bernardo High School Friends of the Library, an organization that could provide what Poway Unified School District funding could not.
Mason, a Rancho Bernardo resident since 2001, died on May 7 at age 98 from an apparent cardiac arrest, according to his family.
In addition to founding RBHS FOL, he was a frequent speaker at school board meetings, where he advocated for increased library funding and spoke against proposed cuts. For many years he also taught ballroom dancing to thousands of PUSD elementary students through Seniors Helping Our Kids.
For his efforts in helping thousands of students over the past 17 years, Mason was selected for the Rancho Bernardo Hall of Fame as a 2013 inductee. Last October, he was also inducted into the inaugural Rancho Bernardo High School Hall of Fame.
When interviewed for his RB Hall of Fame induction, Mason said his first assignment with Seniors Helping Our Kids was to use his 24-years as a Russian specialist with the CIA to help a Russian student at Bernardo Heights Middle School. When that ended, he helped out in classrooms, but when opportunities decreased he went across the parking lot to see if Rancho Bernardo High needed volunteers.
That is where Mason met then-librarian Benn von Wistinghausen, who in 2003 was trying to get a Friends of the Library started to raise much-needed money. Mason took on the endeavor to found the group and served as president for more than five years.
“(Some members) envisioned Friends of the Library more as a money machine, but I wanted to also have some cultural activities,” Mason said in 2014.
While initial efforts to add a literary element did not take off, in 2013 Mason had the group start a poetry contest for students. It soon expanded from poems in English and Spanish to those in French and German too.
As for RBHS FOL’s main purpose — to raise money for books and extra library staffing — under his leadership more than $300,000 was raised. After terming out as president he became its corporate contacts and political action chairman.

“I was staggered. I never thought it could happen to me,” Mason said about being selected for RB Hall of Fame. “I’m most pleased. It’s a great honor.” Since its founding in 1974, only 120 individuals have been selected for RB Hall of Fame membership.
At the time, nominator Frances French, who was the high school’s media technician, said “(Dick) is just inspirational for all of us.” She called his efforts “tireless” and said his nickname was “the Energizer Bunny, not because he goes fast, but because he keeps on going.”
Mason was born on Dec. 31, 1921 in State College, Pennsylvania. He was an only child who grew up in Sanford, Florida, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
While serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mason met his wife, Sheila Farquharson, in Jamaica, where he was stationed during the war.
Following his military service, Mason was a Russian analyst with the CIA until his retirement in 1972. During the 1960s he was an interpreter for several Russian and American trade delegations. In addition to being fluent in English, Russian and German, he taught himself how to speak Spanish, Japanese, Farsi and Indonesian, among other languages, according to his family.
He and his wife, who preceded Mason in death, were competitive ballroom dancers and founders of Telemark Dance Records. It produced and sold ballroom dance music.
Following Mason’s death, von Wistinghausen called Mason “a true friend and mentor.” He said, “I will deeply miss Dick’s zest for life, his friendship and our conversations. Through his example, his optimistic attitude and his persistent actions, he has left us inspired to continue to be curious life-long learners, to be active and engaged in society at any age, and to become more caring, more kind and more generous human beings. We are indeed so fortunate to be able to have called him our friend.”
French said she had “never met a more inspirational, amazing individual.”
“Dick represents all that is genuine, inspiring and good,” said RBHS FOL President June Zhou, who credited Mason with her involvement with the Friends. “By working alongside Dick over the last three years, I have learnt the importance of building community partnerships and also never giving up when met with an obstacle. Dick also had a very caring soul.”
Mason’s survivors include his son and daughter, their spouses, four grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and his companion, Joan Ballard.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mason’s memorial service will be held in Rancho Bernardo at a later date
Years ago, Mason decided to help the RBHS FOL even in death. He asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the organization he founded. They can be submitted at RBHSFriendsOfTheLibrary.org or by mailing to RBHS FOL, 13010 Paseo Lucido, San Diego, CA 92128.



The Rancho Bernardo Hall of Fame honors outstanding volunteer leaders in Rancho Bernardo, California.



The selectee for 2020 is Bill Chaffin, being honored for his outstanding leadership in The Palomar Health Foundation, The Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation, Blue Sky Reserve, Rancho Bernardo's 50th Birthday Party, and other organizations that benefit Rancho Bernardo.




Click here to see a listing of all prior years' inductees.


 


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Click here to go the the 2020 sponsors page.

 
 

Rancho Bernardo Hall of Fame Officers

President - Robin Kaufmann
Immediate Past President - Valerie Brown
Vice President - Vicki Touchstone
Secretary - Jane Radatz
Treasurer - Marla Cruz

 

 

Updated 2/17/2019