ST. PETERSBURG — Ron Mason was easy to talk to. He wasn't bashful. He asked you about yourself. And when you responded, he listened.
"A lot of people talk about themselves, but they don't ask you about yourself,'' said his widow, Pat Mason. "It's fun to talk to somebody who's interested in you."
Mr. Mason died Monday at 73. He served on the St. Petersburg City Council from 1987 to 1991 and was involved with several arts and community groups, including the Florida Arts Commission. He was also a State Farm insurance agent for 47 years and raised three children with Pat: Ronald, Paisley and Randy. He had four grandchildren and loved having them over.
Mr. Mason was curious about the world and loved art. Over the years, he and Pat traveled the West and built an impressive collection of contemporary and Southwestern pieces. They ate good food and hosted memorable parties at houses he rehabbed.
Bob Haiman, a longtime family friend and former executive editor of the St. Petersburg Times, recalled asking Mr. Mason why he loved the arts, architecture and interior design but worked in insurance.
"He said, 'Listen Bob. I don't have anything against the insurance business. I like the insurance business, but I don't love the insurance business. And the reason I do the insurance business — and I like it — is that, thank God, it creates the kind of income for me and my family that allows me to indulge my real passions.'
"He knew exactly what he wanted to do in life and he knew exactly what he had to do in life," Haiman said. "My guess is not all that many people in the world have found a way to create that kind of architecture of happiness in their lives."
Pat Mason knew Mr. Mason had it together when they met at Florida State University.
"I married Ron because he was so much fun," she said. "He loved people. He was very outgoing and I was more shy. And he always had a plan for what we were going to do."
The two were married in 1966 and recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. They lived in Miami for a few years, but when it was time to buy a house and raise a family, they chose St. Petersburg. They both became involved with community groups and the local arts scene.
Pat shepherded the First Night New Year's Eve celebration for years and served as its executive director. Mr. Mason served on local arts commissions and was one of the original chairmen of the Mainsail Arts Festival.
His friend Ed Shamas, owner of Orange Blossom Catering, recalled some frustrations Mr. Mason had when he was trying to make St. Petersburg an arts haven.
"Always when you want to create something, people can take a short-sighted view of it," Shamas said. "Ron had a broader view of things."
Contact Jack Suntrup at [email protected] or (727) 893-8092. Follow @JackSuntrup. Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.