Mason descendant established Mason Serenity House

Published 2:38am Saturday, September 28, 2013

In last week’s column, the story of Bishop John Ben Mason’s family and his establishing the William Christian Old Folks Home in Andalusia was related by his daughter, Delores (Mason) Gomez. In today’s narrative, Delores shares in her own words how she was able to further her father’s dream by founding the Mason Serenity House.

Delores was the youngest of eight children born to Bishop Mason. She was married first in Indianapolis to Andy Crim with whom she had a son, Spencer Crim. She was later married to Carlos Gomez. Her son, Spencer, lives in Upper Marlboro, Md., and is married to Darlene, with whom he has two daughters: Tina Crim, single; and Tasha, who is married to Alan Daughtry.

“My dad’s dream was continued by it becoming my dream. I had worked in government services in Indianapolis, Ind., and Washington, D.C., for over 29 years, and ended this career as a Procurement Officer. Leaving Washington in 1985, I came to Andalusia to help take care of my aging mother and continue my dad’s dream.

But before retiring from government service, I came to Andalusia to participate in an auction scheduled to sell my dad’s former nursing home property. My sister, Gloria (Mason) Blake, informed me of the auction to be held on the steps of the local courthouse. A newspaper article indicated that the federal government was auctioning the property for back taxes of more than $62,000. I made my decision to travel to Andalusia and be present at the auction even though I knew I did not have that kind of money.

The auction was held on the steps of the Covington County Courthouse around 11 a.m. on a bright, sunny August day in 1985. There were only two bidders participating in the auction—a gentleman who was short in stature and wore a light-colored tan suit and sunglasses and me, Delores. The auctioneer was tall and wore a light-blue suit. He stood between us looking from one side to the other as we sent bids back and forth. After extensive bidding and just before reaching my breaking point of finances available to me, the other bidder looked at the auctioneer through dark sunglasses and then at me, waved his hand, and said, ‘Ah, let her have it,’ Needless to say, I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief.

Following this event, realization hit me that to be able to do this I had to leave my job and home in Washington, D.C., and move to Andalusia before I could begin the process of rehabilitating the property. I knew I had enough employment time in government service to retire, but I did not feel old enough for that. I began to think that this would not be an easy undertaking.

About that time, the government called for a reduction in the work force and offered employees who had as many years of service as I had an ‘early out.’ This meant I could take this opportunity for early retirement in 1985. I considered the timely offer of ‘early out’ as the providence of God on my behalf.

I continued to maintain communication with state officials, and they concluded that the former nursing home could be renovated to meet current state regulations for offering domiciliary care, which is now known as an assisted living. After establishing a residence in Andalusia, I proceeded with the renovation of the facilities to a state that could be licensed as an assisted living home. I chose to honor my father, Bishop John Ben Mason, by naming the new home as the Mason Serenity House. The earlier nursing home had been named William Christian Old Folks Home to honor William Christian.

The concept for the home was to provide a place where the elderly could spend their golden years in a safe and sanitary environment—a home where the handicapped and disadvantaged could be provided a safe haven.

With the help of my family, the community and city officials we were able in 1989 to offer the first assisted living facility in Covington County and surrounding areas. The Serenity House was licensed by the State of Alabama to operate as a 21-bed capacity for residents. (At a later date, the home’s capacity was reduced to that of a 16-bed facility.)

The initial grand opening was attended by city officials, local business leaders and interested people in the community including my mother, Willie Mason, who was seated in front of the crowd in a wheelchair. The occasion was covered by a staff member of the Andalusia Star-News and published with a picture.

In 1996, the facility was expanded with a larger recreational area along with two additional bedrooms with private baths. This allowed space for exercising and other special events: church services, holiday activities, and games such as dominoes and card playing. These additions were done while the home was conducting full services. The residents, their families and those individuals visiting the home, seemed to have a good time and enjoy all the activities.

Many individuals as well as groups supported the home through the years. For example the Altrusa Club, a ladies service club in Andalusia, provided donations and monthly birthday celebrations with gifts for the residents. A newspaper article reported an occasion when Ziba and Penny Anderson entertained the residents with a luncheon in their home.

The Mason Serenity House served many citizens in this community, both young and old. A special service was providing daycare for senior citizens and respite stays to relieve families for a short time. I thank God for the opportunity my family had to serve senior citizens and others in need. This was achieved partly because of the financial gifts, donations and volunteers from the community, but most of all through the blessings of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In closing I would like to say that it has been my delight to live in Andalusia, and I appreciate the opportunity and privilege I’ve had to offer my life in service to the people of Andalusia.”

Appreciation is expressed to Delores Gomez for sharing her story on the history of the William Christian Old Folks Home and the later Mason Serenity House as well as some genealogy of her Mason family.

Anyone who might have a comment or question regarding this writing is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.

HISTORICAL MEETING: The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud to host a visit and presentation by their Alabama Division (State) Adjutant, Mike Williams, who is a native of Covington County. In additional to his role as adjutant, Mike is editor of the state newsletter and maintains the division’s web site. Anyone interested in Confederate Heritageis invited to attend. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 3, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library.

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