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Law enforcement pioneer did his family, city proud

December 04, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Cheryl Yates remembers the time she took her stepfather - William L. "Bill" Mason - to school for show and tell.

"It was for my psychology class at South Hagerstown High School," she said. "He was in uniform and he talked about what it was like to be a (Washington County Sheriff's) deputy."

Now a school principal in Clinton, Md., Cheryl said Bill was proud when she earned her doctorate from George Washington University.

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"He couldn't wait for me to get him a GW sticker for his car," she said.

Rising to the rank of captain during his 16-year landmark career as the county's first black police officer, Bill also did a stint with the City of Hagerstown before retiring in 1990 as personnel director.

Bill died Nov. 23 at the age of 76 at the home he shared with his wife, Lily, for 32 years.

He and Lily each had children of their own when they married in 1973.

"We had known each other when both of us were married to other people," Lily said. They had no children together.

Lily said Bill already was a deputy when they became interested in each other.

"I loved to watch him at the Mummers' Parade ... he looked so good in his uniform," she said.

Bill's career in law enforcement began in 1959, when he was hired to run the kitchen at the then-Washington County Jail on Jonathan Street.

In a 1972 newspaper interview, Bill described how he met Charles Price, a Hagerstown City Police officer, when Price was campaigning for sheriff.

"He promised me if he got elected he'd give me a job," Bill said during the interview. "He kept his promise."

When Bill and Lily married in 1973, she was working at Hagerstown Trust Co. During the last five years of Bill's law enforcement career, he was third in command, having earned the rank of captain at the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"I worried when they went on car chases," Lily said. "But he never got hurt in the line of duty."

Carolyn Beck was 16 when Bill came into her life as her stepfather.

"It wasn't tough for me at all," she said. "I liked Bill."

Cheryl, who is a year older than her sister, soon was off to college and didn't live at home anymore. But over the years, Cheryl described her relationship with Bill as good.

Remaining at home, Carolyn said she was around Bill a lot more.

"He'd check out my boyfriends, even the one I married," she said. "He was always there for me and made things nice for all of us."

Both Carolyn and Cheryl said Bill kept up with what they and the other children were doing, praising their accomplishments.

"But we heard about the bad things, too," Carolyn said.

Carolyn's daughter, Tramaine Beck, always called Bill "daddy" and described her grandfather as very easy to talk to.

"I remember that anywhere we went, he always knew somebody," Tramaine said. "He involved me in a lot of things, and took me to many city events where I met a lot of people, too."

After leaving law enforcement, Bill worked for the City of Hagerstown for 15 years.

"He didn't like it as much as being a deputy, but he did it well," Lily said.

The Mayor and Council of the City of Hagerstown sent their deepest condolences and sympathy to Bill's family.

"Mr. Bill was a true pioneer of the City of Hagerstown," Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean said. "He shared his experience and wisdom with me and helped me to acknowledge my usefulness to our community."

In the home Lily shared with Bill for so many years are her memories, as well as Bill's many plaques and citations.

Even the couple's 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Angel, was wandering around the home looking a little lost.

"She misses him, too," Lily said.

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