‘He had lots of ideas and wanted to do things’

Seventy-three-year-old Ray Mason died suddenly after a medical emergency during a vacation.

From left, Ray Mason, Elaine Stoots, Jim Evans, Lyle Watson and Fred Wilsky, members of American Legion Post 108 gathered earlier this year to talk about the post’s 80th birthday. (File)

Mason’s death was “a terrible shock,” said Lyle Watson, who came to know Mason during their time together as members of the Lutz/Land O’ Lakes American Legion Post 108.

“He bought into the Legion 150 percent,” Watson said.

“He very quickly made a name for himself and made everybody take notice,” Watson added.

Mason served in the Navy, from 1962 to 1968, as a commissary store keeper. More recently, he served as adjutant of Post 108, assisting commanders and then later became a commander himself.

Watson served as Mason’s adjutant.

Bill Garrison, a former post commander, said Mason’s death “was definitely a loss” for Post 108.

Garrison described Mason as “the glue that held Post 108 together.

“He went above and beyond, both as commander and adjutant. He loved veterans,” Garrison said.

Ray Mason, of American Legion Post 108, helps place flags at gravestones of veterans at Lutz Cemetery, to honor their service to the country. (File)

Richard Fernandez, another former commander, said Mason accomplished a great deal during his tenure with Post 108, perhaps more than any other commander in recent years.

“He loved being involved in it,” said Mason’s wife, Mary.

The Land O’ Lakes couple was married for 48 years and had four children. Their sons are Brian and Tim, and their daughters are Terry Aurie and Karen Kulzer.

Before moving to the area in 1984, Mason lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he owned a meat shop. When he moved here, he worked in the meat department at several different Publix stores, serving as an assistant manager, his wife said.

“He was very helpful. He was everybody’s go-to person,” said his daughter, Karen. “He was a great father, a great husband.”

His wife added: “He was a great friend.”

“If someone had a problem, or something they needed, they’d call him,” she said.

If they wanted to borrow something, he was always willing to help — although sometimes it could take a day or two for him to find the requested item.

When Mason joined Post 108 he was determined to get things done, said Watson, noting he’ll miss his friend. “He was a great guy.”

Over the years, Post 108’s membership has waxed and waned.

Mason was always looking for ways to expand its membership.

During an interview about Post 108’s 80th anniversary earlier this year, Mason talked about the increasing losses suffered by the post, as aging members died.

Now, he too, has joined those ranks.

He died during a vacation, after visiting Gettysburg, a place he always wanted to see, his wife said.

Arrangements are pending, but the family plans to hold a ceremony with military honors at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

Published Oct. 18, 2017

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