It was a mournful occasion last Saturday morning as many friends and family gathered at the St. Simon Baptist Church on the Capitol bypass to bid their final farewell to former Deputy Agriculture Minister and Director General of National Livestock Bureau, Jacob Hilary Mason, Sr.
Mason passed away after a brief illness on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at his daughter’s residence in Logan Town, Bushrod Island at the age of 83.
The funeral was attended by Minister of Agriculture, Madam Seklau Wiles and her husband, Dr. Wiles, Director General, Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI); Carney Johnson, former Ambassador; Mrs. Charles A. Minor; Deacon Francis L. M. Horton, chairman, Deacon Ministry of St. Simon Baptist Church; and Daily Observer publisher, Kenneth Y. Best, among others.
Many described him as the ‘father of inspirational leadership’ who gave strong congenial support for moral values; a man who was humble and patriotic.
Tanajah Jacquelyn Hilaria Mason-Moore, one of his daughters, paid a glowing tribute to her father, describing him as a “gentle, caring father,” who was always ready to look after them.
“My dad was such a kind and generous person who loved sharing, and all who had been around him can testify to this. As a father, he insisted on giving us what we needed from him. He could also take from me when the need arose and I from him similarly. He was such a reliable and trustworthy person, he will be greatly be missed,” she said, adding, that he was always honest with them, and never hid his feelings from them.
In his brief funeral discourse, Rev. F. Rufus W. Reeves, pastor of the St. Simon Baptist Church, admonished the bereaved family and sympathizers to always keep holding together because the world is evil.
Jake or Bob Hilary, as he was known, was born on January 27, 1934, to Mr. Jacob Paygar Mason and Mrs. Hazel Boto Johnson Mason in Bassa Community, Monrovia.
Young Jacob embraced the Christian faith at an early age and became a staunch member of the Baptist denomination. He graduated from Laboratory High School in Monrovia in 1955. During the period from 1958 to 1961, he acquired certificates as veterinary assistant and in zoo manager from institutions in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, respectively.
Min. Mason moved to the United States and was admitted to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He later worked out a transfer to the Southern University in Louisiana, USA, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, specializing in Animal Science; and a Master of Science equivalent in Poultry Production and Extension in 1969.
Upon completion of his studies, he returned to Liberia with his family in 1969 to work at the Ministry of Agriculture.
His extensive tenure with the MOA commenced in an instructional role when he took up residence at CARI in Suakoko, Bong County, as head of the Animal Science Department. Holding this position until 1976, he molded many minds and served as a mentor to the students he served.
While at CARI, Hilary met and married Barbara Bush in 1976, and took on the role of father to her daughters.
He and his family eventually relocated to Monrovia where he was appointed Director of the National Livestock Bureau at the MOA from 1977-1979. He continued his ascension in the Ministry, becoming the Assistant Minister for Technical Services from 1979 to 1991, and then Deputy Minister for Administration until 1994.
Hilary’s stewardship to the Government culminated as the Agriculture Attaché to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy under the diplomatic title of Counselor. He remained in this position until his retirement.
During his professional years, he had the honor to represent the Government of Liberia at numerous international and regional conferences and seminars in agriculture and livestock management, particularly the FAO intergovernmental sessions in Rome, Italy.
He left an indelible legacy at the MOA. A research and instructional manual he created is still being utilized as an effective training tool for MOA personnel.
Min. Mason’s expertise also proved beneficial in his personal capacity when he combined it with his business acumen to establish a successful poultry enterprise; one which he managed until the disruptive civil conflict.
He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Barbara Bush Mason; ten children; twenty-one grandchildren; several brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of other relatives and friends in Liberia and abroad.
After the funeral, the remains were taken to the Kaiser Memorial Lawn in Brewerville for burial.