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Obituaries » Francis L. Mason

Francis Lucien Mason, 93, of Warrenton, passed away peacefully the morning of March 14, 2017.  He was 93 years old.

He was born in November 1923 in Le Havre, France, the eldest son of Frank and Christiane Roule Mason.

Together with his brother Christian and sister Nicole, the family in 1934 sailed to and resettled in Santos, Brazil, where his father was in the coffee trading business. Francis attended French boarding school in Sao Paolo and traveled extensively throughout South America.

Mr. Mason worked for Continental Grain, a French commodities company in Brazil, which in time moved him first to Paris and then, in February 1956, to New York City. The following year he met Colette, a young French-Swiss woman newly immigrated from Geneva, and they married a year later in Manhattan.

Mr. Mason’s financial acumen and fluency in four languages were noted in transactions by The Chase Manhattan Bank, earning him a job there. He caught the eye of David Rockefeller, the future bank chairman then leading Chase’s major international expansion. Mr. Mason’s skills and sophistication impressed Mr. Rockefeller, who sent him (with his family) to run Chase’s initial European bank acquisition, Banque de Commerce in Brussels. It would prove the first of a series of important international assignments Mr. Rockefeller gave Mr. Mason, culminating in his position as senior vice president with responsibility for managing the bank’s Latin American affairs and chairing its country risk committee, where Henry Kissinger was his longtime advisor.

As part of his Chase portfolio, Mr. Mason also chaired the international restructuring committee renegotiating Venezuela’s obligations in the debt crisis of the late 1980s, an effort requiring his coordinating the various interests of more than 500 banks globally with the activities of the IMF, all under watchful pressures of the U.S. secretaries of State and Treasury.  

In that stressful time, Mr. Mason especially enjoyed the respite of his homes in Manhattan’s West Village and waterside on Shelter Island, N.Y., where he loved to garden and sail. 

In retirement he added civic and other activities, serving as president of The Shelter Island Association, co-founder of the Island’s educational foundation and as a board member of the SI Yacht Club, among other responsibilities.  In 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Mason moved to Warrenton, to be near their daughter and her family. They loved their adopted hometown, embraced the community and made their home into the extended family’s mecca at holidays, just as Shelter Island had been before.  

That mecca is no longer the same without Francis, but the beautiful memories remain, of his life well lived and his devotion to family.  Rest in peace beloved husband, father, brother and granddaddy.  Ta famille t’aime beaucoup.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Colette Martin Mason; their three children, Catherine Grigioni of Zurich, Switzerland, Claire Lubowsky of Warrenton and Patrick Mason of Marin County, Calif., and their spouses, Carlo Grigioni, Yakir Lubowsky and Kristin Mason; his sister, Nicole Grey of Oakland, Calif., and six grandchildren, Stephan Grigioni, Claire Grigioni, Margot Lubowsky, Cassandra Lubowsky, Henry Mason and Philip Mason.
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