Monday, May 04, 2009

Martha Mason 1937 - 2009


Martha Mason
LATTIMORE - Ms. Martha Mason, who lived at 204 Oak Drive in Lattimore, died shortly after dawn on Monday, May 4, 2009, one month shy of her 72nd birthday.

Stricken with polio in the epidemic of 1948, she had lived 61 years in an iron lung, longer than any other polio survivor in the world.
Following a year of hospitalization after she was stricken, she returned to her parents' home. Her doctors told her and her parents that she could not possibly live a year, if that long. The late C.C. Padgett, principal of the Lattimore Schools, organized a home schooling program for her. She graduated from Lattimore High School in 1956, first in her class. She graduated from Gardner-Webb College (now Gardner-Webb University) in 1958, first in her class. In 1960, she graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest University, first in the first class to graduate from the University's Winston-Salem campus. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Her book, "Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung", was published to critical acclaim in 2003. In September of that year, Wake Forest University honored her with its Pro Humanitate Award. The following year, Gardner-Webb University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters. She was a member of Shelby Rotary Club and had been awarded its Paul Harris Fellowship.
She is survived by two longtime and devoted caregivers, Ginger Justice and Melissa Boheler.
Memorial Service: Wednesday, May 6, 3 p.m., Lattimore Baptist Church, where she was a lifelong member
Visitation: Friends will be greeted in the fellowship hall of the church, one hour before the service.
Burial: Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church Cemetery, where she will be laid to rest with her parents, Willard and Euphra Ramsey Mason; and her brother, Gaston Owen Mason, who died of complications from polio the day Martha was stricken in 1948
Memorials: Martha Mason Scholarship Fund, c/o Gardner-Webb University, P.O. Box 997, Boiling Springs, NC 28017; or Lattimore Baptist Church, P.O. Box 188, Lattimore, NC 28089
Funeral home: Cecil M. Burton Funeral Home and Crematory
Online guest registry: www.cecilmburtonfuneralhome.com

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Woman who lived 60 years in iron lung dies
Cassie Tarpley
May 4, 2009 - 10:16AM
LATTIMORE - Cleveland County lost a most unusual world record setter Monday.
Martha Mason had bested polio, a once-pandemic disease, over 85 percent of her lifetime after being told she wouldn't live to her teen years.
One month shy of 72, Mason died early Monday at home in tiny Lattimore, where she had "lived above" her disease flat on her back for more than 61 years.
Mason had always said that she would not let polio beat her. Her life demonstrated that she meant what she said.
She wrote in 2002, "As a youngster, in pre-polio days, I enjoyed sports and considered myself an athlete .... proud of my physical strength ... unusually self-reliant. Suddenly, I was an 11-year-old quadriplegic, I was not strong and I was completely reliant on others .... I would not be a whiner, but what would I be? ..."
What she would be is a person who never met a stranger, someone who overcame any obstacle deterring whatever goal she set and an inspiration whose influence will live on in the world.
Mason became the only person in the Southeastern United States still living in an iron lung and, by all accounts, the world's record holder in the 800-pound yellow machine that forced breath through her lungs every minute of every day and night.
"This is a total shock - I hate it," Shelby banker Bobby Smith said when he learned of Mason's passing. "I'm going to miss knowing that she's there.
"Martha was the kind of person you wanted everyone to meet," said Smith, who met her years ago as governor for Rotary District 7680.
Everywhere he went after that introduction, he told people about her, and just Saturday night, at a Rotary conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he had issued an invitation to the incoming district gover-nor to visit.
Since 1985, Smith said, "Rotary International has as its goal the eradication of polio (it has not happened yet; there are still four countries affected - Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Niger)."
Rotary works with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF, he said.
When they met, Smith asked permission to tell her story as he promoted Rotary's goal.
"She told me, ‘As long as it's not about me, but about polio.'"
Mason became an honorary member of Shelby Rotary Club. Members honored her as a Paul Harris Fellow and gave her a medallion on a ribbon that she could wear, but it hung on her wall.
Smith's own medal, much older and heavier, pinned on, he said, and Mason offered hers for him to wear at Rotary functions.
"I was honored. And as I was leaving, she said something I couldn't hear."
Smith stepped closer and got an example of Mason's sense of humor.
"She said, ‘Don't get gravy on it!'"
Mason told an ABC News reporter just before her 71st birthday, "My story's been one of joy, one of wonderful experiences. It has not been perfect. But that's what people need to understand - that I have had a good life."


Martha Mason was 12 and in an Asheville hospital when she was told, "You'll never walk again. You'll never bathe or feed yourself again. You're basically an excellent mind and an exuberant spirit locked in an inert body - a prison. Can you live with that?" "No," began the answer, "but I can live above it."
That dire diagnosis and defiant response came one year after polio invaded her body the same day her beloved, brother, Gaston, who died from polio, was buried.
Across the nearly 60 years since then, Martha Mason's unconquerable spirit has soared to unbelievable heights of achievement from inside the 800-pound iron lung that breathes for her. This amazing woman and her iron lung completed high school and attended Gardner-Webb College. She attended Wake Forest University the same way. She graduated first in her class and earned Phi Beta Kappa honors. Using a voice-activated computer at home in Lattimore, she wrote her memoir, "Breath, Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung."
Martha has said, "I think I was born with supercharged, competitive genes. I always expect to win the gold." Actually, Martha Mason has spun for us all a golden legacy of human will trumping adversity.
Source: 2007 Shelby Mayor's Honors Awards
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Gardner-Webb University President Dr. Frank Bonner
"Martha Mason was a wonderful and remarkable woman. Gardner-Webb University is proud that she is an alumna and the entire University family joins in mourning the loss of Martha. She had great courage and strong character and she was the model of perseverance. In the face of challenges and great obstacles, she not only achieved her educational goals but excelled academically. She had a delightful personality and a keen intellect and she was a delight to visit. The life story she wrote in ‘Breath' and the life she lived are a tremendous inspiration to us all and that inspiration will live on."
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Pastor Max Burgin, Lattimore Baptist Church
"She had a strong heart for life. Even though she was a prisoner in the iron lung, her faith and knowledge of the Lord were constantly expanding. That iron lung did not contain her."

School and college classes, honors and awards, even her 50th class reunion, Martha Mason took part in them all from the confines of her constant companion, the iron lung. Read more online later today at shelbystar.com and in Wednesday's Star.
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Martha Mason had always said that she would not let polio get her. And at age 72 when she died early Monday, she had "lived above" her disease flat on her back for more than 61 years.
Mason's life - defined not by polio or the 800-pound machine that forced breath through her lungs during those six decades - demonstrated that she meant what she said.
She wrote in 2002, "As a youngster, in pre-polio days, I enjoyed sports and considered myself an athlete. I was proud of my physi-cal strength. I was also unusually self-reliant. Suddenly, I was an 11-year-old quadriplegic, I was not strong and I was completely reliant on others. I resolved not to force every trumpet to herald my weakness. I would not be a whiner, but what would I be? ..."
What she would be is a person who never met a stranger, someone who overcame whatever obstacle deterring any goal she set and an inspiration whose influence will live on.
Mason became the only person in the Southeast living in an iron lung and, by all accounts, the world's record holder .
"This is a total shock - I hate it," banker Bobby Smith said of Mason's passing. "I'm going to miss knowing that she's there.
"Martha was the kind of person you wanted everyone to meet," said Smith, who met her years ago as governor for Rotary District 7680.
Everywhere he went after that introduction, he told people about her, and just Saturday night, at a Rotary conference in Myrtle Beach, he had issued an invitation to the incoming district governor to visit.
Since 1985, Smith said, "Rotary International has as its goal the eradication of polio (it has not happened yet; there are still four countries affected - Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Niger)."
Rotary works with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF, he said.
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Updated 3:35 p.m.

Noel Manning II, Gardner-Webb University

"She did not live like a person whose life was confined. She never met anyone that she did not become friends with immediately. (She) amazed me on so many different levels.
(She) kept up with the world around her through the Internet. More connected than a lot of people with total physical freedom.
She overcame any obstacle she wanted to overcome."
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Updated 3:31 p.m.

Dawn Anthony, Gardner-Webb University alumni office

"(She was) so personal and just easy going, wanted to know everything about you and always remembered next time you saw her.
An inspiration and so full of wisdom.
You just walk away inspired by her. She will be highly missed. She touched a lot of people here at GW and will continue to touch through her scholarship."
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Updated 11:03 a.m.

Click here for information on how to purchase Mason's memoir "Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung"
http://www.amazon.com/Breath-Life-Rhythm-Iron-Lung/dp/1878086952/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top/190-3207923-9798319

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Updated 10:28 a.m.

Exceptional achievers honored at Merry-Go-Round Festival
Thursday, Apr 26 2007, 6:29 pm

Three exception achievers were honored with 2007 Merry-Go-Round honors awards Thursday evening. The following is what is written on the citations for each recipient.

In Recognition Of An Unconquerable Human Spirit

That Soars And Lives Above Its Stable of Nightmares

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner was 12 and in an Asheville hospital when she was told, "You'll never walk again. You'll never bathe or feed yourself again. You're basically an excellent mind and an exuberant spirit locked in an inert body-a prison. Can you live with that?" "No," began the answer, "but I can live above it." That dire diagnosis and defiant response came one year after polio invaded her body the same day her beloved, brother, Gaston, who died from polio, was buried. Across the nearly 60 years since then, Martha Mason's unconquerable spirit has soared to unbelievable heights of achievement from inside the 800-pound iron lung that breathes for her. This amazing woman and her iron lung completed high school and attended Gardner-Webb College. She attended Wake Forest University the same way. She graduated first in her class and earned Phi Beta Kappa honors. Using a voice-activated computer at home in Lattimore, she wrote her memoir, Breath, Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung. Martha has said, "I think I was born with supercharged, competitive genes. I always expect to win the gold." Actually, Martha Mason has spun for us all a golden legacy of human will trumping adversity.
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Updated 10:25 a.m.

Frank Nanney Hall opens, ready to serve
Thursday, Aug 28 2008, 5:43 pm
Cherish Wilson

BOILING SPRINGS - It started with an iron lung and now Gardner-Webb University's commitment to students with disabilities has a new home and an enduring mission.

Faculty, staff, guests and trustees gathered for the ribbon cutting for Frank Nanney Hall.

This 12,000-square-foot building will be the new home for the Noel Program for Students with Disabilities as well as the social sciences department.

The building consists of classroom space, production labs, testing centers and office space.

The project was made possible by donations including a substantial lead gift from Frank Nanney.

Additional donors include the Dover Foundation, Cannon Foundation, ME Foundation and the Nanney Foundation. Contributions from Mailon and Ella Mae Nichols, Ray and Sara Starnes, and a major anonymous donor were also designated for this new facility.

In the 1950s, Martha Mason attended Gardner-Webb, then a junior college, despite being confined to an iron lung.

Since the 1950s, Gardner-Webb's disability services program has grown into the Noel Program for Students with Disabilities, which provides educational accommodations to more than 100 students. The Noel Program now serves students with limitations ranging from partial to total blindness or deafness, to orthopedic challenges, to social or learning disabilities.

Cheryl Potter, director of the Noel Program, said the university's commitment to serving those students extended well beyond the new walls of Frank Nanney Hall.

"We had a gentleman come to campus during an accreditation process and he told us he traveled around the country to campuses," Potter said. "He said he usually observed that disability services were not well integrated with the campus as a whole, but at Gardner-Webb it didn't take long to see it was different."

The services and accommodations for those with disabilities extends from one end of the campus to the other, the man observed.

"I was extremely proud," Potter said. "That compliment was not for the Noel Program but for the entire university family."

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Updated 10:22 a.m.


GWU establishes Martha Mason scholarship
Monday, Jun 9 2008, 9:17 am
Cherish Wilson

BOILING SPRINGS - The Martha Mason Challenge Endowed Scholarship Fund has been established at Gardner-Webb University. Through the efforts of the Classes of 1958 and 1959 the endowment will honor Martha Mason and her commitment to Christian higher education.
The Martha Mason Challenge Endowed Scholarship Fund was founded to provide financial assistance to full-time students attending the university.
Preference will be given to students who are under the assistance of the NOEL Program for the Disabled. The Noel Program assists students with learning disabilities, physical limitations, limited or total blindness or deafness.
"We do not honor Martha because she lives in an iron lung. We honor her for the knowledge and wisdom she has attained and for the tremendous impact she has had and continues to have on her community," states Charles Cornwell, a lifetime friend and editor of her book.
Mason was delighted to see the endowment that will aid students like her.
"I am pleased that my class is doing this for Gardner-Webb. I think that Gardner-Webb has a vision to help a child who may be challenged physically or mentally," she said. "I am very proud of Gardner-Webb and I am very proud of my class."
Martha Mason was Gardner-Webb's first distance learner.
She battled polio as a child and as a result has lived in an iron lung since she was 11 years old. Mason never let the fact that she was limited physically inhibit her ability to learn. While at Gardner-Webb she participated in her class via intercom, which allowed her to talk with her professors and fellow classmates.
She graduated from Gardner-Webb in 1958 at the top of her class. After graduation, she continued her education at Wake Forest University. She also has written a book, "Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung," the story of her life.
She is currently working on her second book, which will be a collection of short stories. Mason was also the subject of the award-winning documentary, "Martha in Lattimore" by filmmaker Mary Dalton.
The scholarship fund was established with an initial gift from the Classes of 1958 and 1959 as part of their 50-year reunion. The fund is open-ended and classmates, family and friends of Martha Mason may make additional contributions. All donations can be made in the form of cash, stocks, bonds or property and all are tax deductible.

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