Walter Fred Mason, 96, passed peacefully on Friday, May 3, 2013 in Bozeman. Walter was born in Sidney, Mont. on April 17, 1917 to Frederick Arthur and Emeline (McArthur) Mason. He was raised on his parents' ranch in McKenzie County, North Dakota.
Walter received his elementary education at the one-room Mason School where he studied alongside his five to eight schoolmates. To attend high school, he "batched" with sisters or other North Dakota ranch children in Sidney, graduating in 1935. He then worked on the home ranch or on neighboring ranches as a ranch hand for a year before entering North Dakota State Agricultural College in Fargo. There, he earned a B.S. degree in chemistry and an M.S. degree in botany. He went on to study at the Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., receiving a Master of Divinity Degree in 1944.
In 1942, Walter married Sarah Allagene Jefferis of Washburn, N.D. In 1944, they traveled to Chile where they worked with the Methodist Church of Chile for 23 years. Walter served as a teacher and school administrator for an agricultural school and was CEO of a church-owned experimental farm that provided trees and plants to the entire country. He also served as pastor for several churches in Chile, including churches in the capital city of Santiago, in the city of Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan, and on the island of Tierra del Fuego, which at the time, was the southernmost Methodist church in the world. Walter also hosted a weekly radio program that broadcast to remote regions of southern Chile and Argentina.
While in Chile, Walter was active in Rotary. He served as president of his club and was a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. He was also active in the Masonic Lodge and was Master of Masonic Lodges in Chile and in Browning, Mont., and was a member of Lodge #18 in Bozeman and Lodge #1 in Virginia City. He was a member of The Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason.
The Masons' children, David, Kathryn, Paul, and Tim, were born and schooled in Chile and went on to undertake their college studies in the U.S.
After returning to live in the U.S. in 1967, Walter taught Spanish at Tennessee Wesleyan College and then served as pastor of Methodist churches in Utah and on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. In 1981, he and Allagene retired to Bozeman. Since that time, he was involved with numerous organizations. He served as treasurer of the Garden Club for 15 years and volunteered more than 4,500 hours at the Museum of the Rockies in various areas, most recently in the Living History Farm and the fossil bank. He also enjoyed the friendship of many, particularly a group that called themselves "The Octogenarians."
Walter also enjoyed camping with the family at locations around the world, from Chile's Pacific beaches and the Patagonian Andes to Europe (Genoa to Edinburgh), Canada, and the United States.
Walter was preceded in death by his parents, four sisters, and one brother. He is survived by his wife, Allagene; one sister, Beatrice (Doug) Stewart; four children, Col. David (Vonda) Mason, USAF, Ret., Kathy (David) Lentz, Paul (Loretta) Mason, and Tim (Amy Walker) Mason; eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
A private graveside service will be held. A celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 10 at Bozeman United Methodist Church, followed by a reception.
The family suggests memorials be made to Bozeman United Methodist Church, 121 S. Willson Ave., Bozeman MT 59715; Museum of the Rockies, 600 W. Kagy Blvd., Bozeman, MT 59715; or a
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, www.dokkennelson.com.