Mason is Flint Springs Tribe's newest chief

Steve Mason (left) the 2009 Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe, accepts his plaque from last year's Chief, Ryan Warner, on Thursday, June 25, at the LaFontaine Golf Club.
Steve Mason (left) the 2009 Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe, accepts his plaque from last year's Chief, Ryan Warner, on Thursday, June 25, at the LaFontaine Golf Club. Photo by Scott Trauner.

Four years ago, the impact of one man's decision ripped a hole through the carefully woven fabric of Steve Mason's life.

A hole that can never be repaired.

Mason made no attempt to repair it; instead, he set out to do what he could to keep other families safely wrapped in their cocoons.

To keep them from receiving the heart-stopping call: "There's been an accident. Your son is not expected to live."

Since then, Mason has reached more than 20,000 young people, showing them how many lives are affected by a decision to drink and drive.

Those efforts helped earn Mason the title of 2009 Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe on Thursday, June 25, entitling him to serve as the honorary head of Huntington Heritage Days festivities.

Serving in the role of a community leader is not unfamiliar to Mason, noted Ryan Warner, who introduced Mason as his successor.

But it wasn't just Mason's willingness to take on active role in the community that prompted Huntington's previous chiefs to elect him into their fold.

"It was felt that a chief needed to put others ahead of him or herself," Warner said. "To check off the boxes of community leadership and activity is important. But a cause that they dedicate themselves to differentiates them from the others."

Mason's work after the death of his son fit that requirement, said Warner.

Warner's position as 2008 Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe left him with the task of introducing Mason, and he said he struggled with his description of the new chief.

"The best adjective I could think of is a servant leader," Warner said.

The 1970 Indiana University graduate, Warner noted, majored in business while playing in a college band called "The Wonders" that drove from gig to gig in a used hearse.

Mason and his wife moved to Huntington after he was offered a position at Insurance Services (now IMG), and Mason became involved in community life - serving on the boards, and often as a leader, of the Optimist Club, The Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Way, Council on Aging, Boys & Girls Club and LACE, while coaching his sons and their friends in basketball and baseball.

"Business was good, life was good," Warner said. "Then came 2005."

The Masons' younger son Chris, out with friends from college, was fatally injured when a speeding car he was riding in slammed into a tree and flipped over.

At Mason's request, and with the cooperation of Mason's family, the driver of that car produced a video showing the impact of that young man's decision to take the wheel after drinking. Mason has since presented that video hundreds of times at schools and community meetings. The video has been seen by more than 20,000 young people, and DVDs have been ordered by more than 700 organizations throughout the United States, Warner said.

"‘We're the unlucky ones,' our chief reflected. ‘I guess we're willing to share what it's like to be unlucky with other people in hopes that they will never be,' " Warner quoted Mason as saying.

Mason, who was moved to tears by Warner's introduction, paid tribute to those who had preceded him as chief.

"When I first came to Huntington, and when I first came to one of these breakfasts, I didn't know many of the names in the program," Mason said as he accepted the honor. "But now that I've lived here for 30 years, I'm glad to say I know many, if not all, of the people and I've always been impressed by the quality of the people who receive this award.

"I am deeply honored and humbled by this award."

His late son Chris, he said, once told his mother that Huntington was "a pretty cool town; a pretty cool place to live," Mason says. "I couldn't agree more ... We found Huntington to be a very warm, a very loving community."
Mason ended the morning by reading a proclamation declaring Heritage Days to be officially open.