Mason Hendrickson served his country and his community

December 12, 2004|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Edwin Mason Hendrickson Sr., who died Dec. 3 at the age of 82. His obituary appeared in the Dec. 5 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Although Mason Hendrickson was born in Frederick County, he spent much of his professional life in Hagers-town, where he also contributed to the betterment of his adopted community.

"When mom and dad settled in Hagers-town, it was like coming home for them," said elder son Edwin Mason Hendrickson Jr., a U.S. State Department official who was in Amman, Jordan, when he learned his father had passed away.

Mason died Dec. 3 at his home at the age of 82.

The connection to Hagers-town began before Mason's birth in 1922. His parents were married at St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown and other relatives had lived in the neighborhood where Mason and his wife, Virginia, settled years later.


Virginia Lane Gambrill Hendrickson also was born in Frederick, Md.

"Our parents knew each other when we were both just children," she said.

She and Mason began dating when she was studying at Hood College and Mason was a student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.

"He was so handsome and funny," she said.

Their dates included fancy dress balls, as they were called at Washington and Lee, where Mason could indulge in his love of jazz and Big Band music.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Mason enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

"He was a sophomore at Washington and Lee when he came home for the holidays in 1941 and signed up," Virginia said.

After finishing the semester at school, Mason officially entered the military and became a pilot, eventually flying 68 combat missions over Europe.

Married to Mason in 1943, Virginia completed her English degree studies at Hood while Mason still was in the Air Force. When he came back from Europe, he trained pilots in Florida.

Edwin Jr. was born on V-J Day in August 1945. The couple's other two children are Jim, born in 1949; and Mary, born in 1950.

Virginia said Mason's first concern after the war was finishing his education on the GI Bill, which he did at the University of Maryland in the field of business and public administration.

"It paid for tuition, rent and food," Virginia said. "I was home with Edwin while Mason was in school - it was a great investment for us."

The Hendricksons then lived with Virginia's parents for a while after Mason got a job in Frederick. Both Mason and Virginia were beginning a lifetime of civic activity even in those early days.

Over the years, there was church work, Scouting, preserving natural resources, and service on the board of regents at Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy, which he attended, the Maryland Historical Society, the Assembly Club and the Washington County Symphony Society.

After 13 years in business in Lewisburg, Pa., the family came back to Hagerstown when Mason began working for First National Bank of Maryland - a job from which he retired as senior vice president.

Edwin smiled as he recalled his father's habit of walking to work each day at First National until the day he retired. It was when he got the job as commissioner of the Maryland Public Service Commission in 1992 that he began a regimen of driving to Baltimore to work each day.

At Mason's funeral service, which was held on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Edwin read some words from a letter written by one of his father's comrades during the war. William "Tiger" Lyons spoke of his friendship with Mason while they were serving in the same fighter group during the war.

"You could always count on Mason Hendrickson," Lyons said in his letter. "All in all, Mason was simply the best man in the room."

Few who knew Mason would dispute that picture of the man.

"Dad had a lot of energy," Edwin said. "He was always so welcoming and so interested in the world and in my work in the foreign service."

As he sat in the living room with his mother last week, Edwin said he now understands his parents' strong connection to Hagerstown, even though he has traveled the world and currently lives in Baghdad, Iraq, with his wife and four children.

"Coming back home to Hagerstown represents the real America to me," Edwin said. "Dad was a touchstone for me and for that real world."

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