-By Cary Shuman
Friends, classmates, teammates, coaches, teachers, residents, and family members said a final farewell to Michael J. Mason, a former three-sport captain and Winthrop Hall of Fame inductee, during memorial observances last week.
Mason, who is being remembered fondly as a great athlete and a great person, died on April 13 after a valiant battle with an illness. He was 36 years old.
He will be forever etched in WHS sports lore for his achievements during the 1992 football season when he quarterbacked the Vikings to the Super Bowl that was played before a crowd of 5,000 fans at Miller Field. Under the direction of head coach Tony Fucillo and a brilliant offensive strategy that maximized his incredible football-throwing talents, Mason helped guide the team to the Northeastern Conference championship.
Mason also excelled in basketball and baseball and continued his athletic career at Bentley University in Waltham.
Joseph Ferrara, a friend of Michael Mason since childhood, delivered a beautiful and touching eulogy at a funeral Mass on Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Church.
“The last time I stood at the podium to talk about “Mase” was when I presented him for the Winthrop Hall of Fame,” Ferrara said. “Here I am again to do the same thing.”
Ferrara recalled the beginning of their friendship at the age of nine and how even then Mason’s magnetic personality drew many wanting to be in his company.
Ferrara paid tribute to the Mason family – Michael’s father Joe; his late mother Arline; his sisters Karen and Kim; and his brother Jay. “A piece of all them resided somewhere in Mase: athletic ability, generous, kind, and genuine.”
Ferrara recalled how “Mason’s star shone brightest on the holidays,” noting how he would call friends to wish them well on happy occasions during the year.
Like most stellar athletes, Mason had confidence in his abilities on the playing field. “No. 11 – why do you wear that number, someone once asked him,” recalled Ferrara. “Mike modestly answered, Because I’m twice as good.”
“He was twice as good,” Ferrara told the large assemblage inside the church. “He was a teammate in every sense of the word, too. Even though he was the best player on the field, he always gave credit to others.”
Ferrara related how his lifelong friend had long wanted to be a coach and he was able to give back to the community as an assistant with the sixth grade youth football team.
Tributes to Mason have poured in from those who knew him and coached him.
David Tallent Sr. was among the first adults to recognize the special athletic talents of Mason and see the effect that his charismatic personality and warmth had on others.
Tallent selected then 10-year-old Mason as the first pick in the Winthrop Little League Major League draft. Mason and Dodgers’ teammates such as David Tallent Jr. and Billy Morelli Jr. would lead that team to an historic 20-0 record, an undefeated championship season that had never been achieved in Winthrop Little League. Mason and Tallent were the unbeatable 1-2 combination on the mound while there wasn’t a better catcher anywhere than Billy Morelli Jr.
Through his leadership and energy, Tallent, joined by coaches Jackie Trainor and coach/scorekeeper Billy Morelli Sr., brought considerable enjoyment in to Michael Mason and his friends’ lives, even founding Winthrop traveling, American Legion, and Intercity League baseball teams so Winthrop kids could play the game they loved on their hometown field.
But Tallent said that it was Michael Mason who brought much joy into his life and that of his family.
“Even way back, he was one of those kids who would shake everybody’s hand and lift people up,” said Tallent. “He was a very charismatic kid. He could pick out idiosyncrasies in teammates and coaches and it was brilliant.”
Tallent said his son David Jr. maintained a close friendship with Mason, inviting him and other teammates, to be a part of his wedding day celebration.
“These kids were tight,” said Tallent. “Their friendship started young and continued for many years. I had a fabulous run with Michael and these kids.”
Tallent said Mason had an uplifting effect on each member of his family.
“He would call me on Father’s Day and wish me a happy Father’s Day,” recalled Tallent. “He always did those little things. At the time, you think, that’s a little strange, but it was such a nice gesture. My daughter Amanda’s picture on Facebook is with Michael. I knew she was very fond of him, but she liked the picture so much of them together that she put it on Facebook. This loss has deeply affected all four of my children and family.”
Joseph Ferrara spoke of the huge impact Mason had on people during his lifetime.
“In your short 36 years you have accomplished what most men spend a lifetime trying to achieve, drawing people to you that love, cherish and respect you – all without seeking it out, but by only being you,” said Ferrara. “I am forever blessed for having had you in my life.”