In July 30 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
When school resumes at Russell County High on August 5th, one familiar face will be noticeably absent from the hallways, longtime English teacher "Buddy" Mason.
Mason is retiring early and getting married on Oct. 31 to Bonnie Johnson in Nashville, Tenn. Johnson and Mason were friends 40 years ago in college and became reacquainted at their 40th college reunion over Labor Day in 2007.
"I know I'm doing the right thing," he said. "I'm happy with retirement, I'm happy moving to Nashville, I'm happy about getting married in the fall."
Mason is currently moving out of the only house he has ever owned and admitted that it was tough to leave a place so dear to his heart, but that he knew the decisions he had made were the right ones.
"I miss it a little now, but I know I'm going to miss it when school starts," he said.
Mason and Johnson hadn't seen each other for 40 years, until the reunion two years ago.
All this time, Bonnie worked and lived in Nashville. She married, had three children, divorced, remarried and then became a widow in 2004. During the same 40 years, "Buddy" worked and lived in Kentucky. He married, had a son and daughter, and divorced in 1999.
In the summer of 1967, Bonnie and "Buddy" met for the first time on the campus of Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, one of the stops along Mason's collegiate journey.
According to Mason, the two share many of the same likes and dislikes and that it seems destiny has allowed the two to come together as one, albeit later in life than most decide to settle down.
For more than 20 years Mason was a church pastor, sometimes serving multiple parishes in small communities in Kentucky.
He said a love for teaching drew him to add to his Master's of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Master's in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University by studying education at Campbellsville and Eastern Kentucky Universities.
Mason began his teaching career at Lindsey Wilson College in 1987 teaching philosophy, Christian beliefs and world civilization and he began his student teaching in the fall of 1992 at Russell County High School after retiring from the Untied Methodist Church and going back to Campbellsville College to obtain his secondary education teaching certificate.
For five years, from 1985 to 1990, Mason pastored at Russell Springs United Methodist Church, where he was bishop-appointed.
Beginning in the summer of 1993, Mason began substitute teaching, teaching summer and after school at RCHS and then he worked some contract years for the school system.
"Then in the fall of '96, they put me in the classroom full time, so basically I had 13 years in state retirement," he said. "But technically I had been there since 1992."
He said he felt the opportunity to get into education was just as much a ministry as actually leading a church.
"I wanted people to talk back to me," he said of why he got into teaching. He said he loved the rapport back and forth that he had with his high school students.
"It just kept me excited because of the challenge of it," he said. "I loved that sense of back and forth interaction."
He said he loved to help prepare students for college and that his time spent teaching in college helped him in prepping his high school students for the next level. But at times, Mason said, he had underachievers in class, those that had the ability to do the work but sometimes didn't put out the effort to get it done. Those he couldn't reach still bother him to this day.
"I never really had a bad kid," he said. "Talkative, disinterested, distracted by something at home or a relationship, but they were all good kids."
He said he was going to miss all the times he has had former students come back and visit with him and catch up with each other.
He said he always told his students to never give up and that they could accomplish anything they wanted if they kept at it and had a goal in mind.
"Buddy" and Bonnie are slated to be married on Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. at the Scarritt-Bennett Retreat Center in Nashville with the attire being dressy casual Halloween costumes.
Mason said for attendees to please wear comfortable attire and shoes so you can enjoy the whole time, especially dancing at the reception on the quadrangle lawn. He said weather predictions for the day are mid-60's which is great for active outdoor activities.
Mason said the wedding ceremony itself will be rich with music, readings and words of commitment to each from many cultures and spiritual traditions. This reflects the multicultural experience of Bonnie's childhood, their experience at Scarritt College, studying and living with and developing friendships with people from all over the world as well as their experiences, practices and appreciation for all spiritual paths, he said.
When asked to give his former Russell County students one bit of advice going forward he said, "Love your life and live your love."
It appears that "Buddy" Mason is doing just that.