December 5, 1929 - June 6, 2014 Dr. Richard Mason passed away peacefully at his Los Feliz home on June 6th, at the age of 84, with his family by his side. Rick, as he was known by his many friends, spent the last 2 years of his life battling a brain tumor. He was a loving father, compassionate doctor, devoted husband and a devout Catholic who believed in using his healing talents to help those in need. Born on December 5, 1929 in Los Angeles, Rick was the son of immigrant Lithuanian parents who came to America shortly before WWI. Always the avid explorer, he spent much of his boyhood hiking the hills of Angeles Forest and Griffith Park. Rick's parents encouraged their savvy son to be a doctor, so after graduating from Loyola High School in 1946, Rick joined the Navy and was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Colahan. Within two years, he began his pre-med studies at Loyola University. It was here that Rick met life-long friends and future medical partners Bill Evangelatos and Jack Wilson. The dashing trio of student docs caught many a nurse's eye, but it wasn't until Rick finished med school at St. Louis University and went back into the Navy that a gorgeous young nurse was able to capture Rick's heart. Rita St. Ours was a Navy Nurse working at the Naval hospital in Portsmouth Virginia when Rick was assigned duty there as an intern. With the vivacious and strong-willed Rita, Rick had finally met his match. They were a dapper duo on the dance floor and cutthroat partners at a Bridge table. They were meant for each other and after six months of courting, they were married at Camp Pendleton on April 15, 1956. They began their married life in a small West L.A. apartment, close to the V.A. Hospital where Rick was a resident doctor and not far from the Santa Monica Hospital where Rita worked as a nurse. Shortly after, Rick opened a private practice with college pals Jack Wilson and Bill Evangelatos and began his family. Rick and Rita were true to the "be fruitful and multiply" motto in the Bible. They had six kids in the next seven years, and they moved to the Los Feliz area - close to Griffith Park where Rick had fond childhood memories. Over the coming years, he spent many a weekend with his boisterous brood on the hiking trails he had once explored. Rick opened a medical office near Mac Arthur Park and his practice thrived. These were the days of "house calls" and more personalized medicine, and Rick, with his charm, wit and skill, attracted many loyal patients who stayed with him for the next 40 years. In 1980 Rick and Rita became involved with a Catholic-based group called Mission Doctors, who send physicians to Africa and New Guinea to work in remote villages where medical care is practically non-existent. Always the philanthropist and adventurer, Mission Doctors was the perfect fit for Rick. However, shortly before they were to depart for a one year stint in Africa, Rita had heart problems which made it impossible for her to work in such a remote area. Rick wouldn't go without her, so together they devoted their time to helping Mission Doctors recruit and train Doctors who were able to go. But Rick's yearning desire to work in Africa was not completely dashed. A Mission Doctor physician in Cameroon needed a month leave of absence, and Rick volunteered to fill in. In the tiny town of Njinikom, Cameroon, Rick cared for hundreds of men, women and children - treating tropical diseases, setting broken bones, even delivering babies. For Rick, this was a dream fulfilled and when he returned, he continued to be a leader of Mission Doctors, a labor of love that spanned over 30 years. In 2012, his beloved wife Rita suffered a debilitating stroke. Rick spent the next several months caring for her as best he could, but it was only 6 months later that Rick was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Rita passed away on January 5, 2013 and the sparkling light in Rick's azure eyes was never the same. He bravely battled the tumor for the next 17 months before joining his soul mate in heaven. Rick is survived and greatly loved by his six children: Lisa Walker, Stephen Mason, Gregory Mason, Michelle Burks, John Mason and Christine Mason; and by his 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. A Memorial Service for Dr. Mason will be held at Our Mother Of Good Council Church on Saturday, June 28th at 11 am. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Mission Doctors Association in Los Angeles.
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Published in the Los Angeles Times from June 12 to June 15, 2014