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In Memory of Jeff Mason PDF Printable Version E-mail

In Memory of Jeff Mason

Barry and Margaret Williamson
19 January 2017 

The sad news just in today is that our great friend and hero, connoisseur of Wheelchair Walks and the sanest person we ever knew, Jeff Mason, has died at home in Sheffield in his 70's. It is over 27 years since his very minor cycling accident left him paralysed from the neck down.

The collision occurred on a Sunday as he was cycling uphill near his home. Distracted by the fineness of the morning, he rode slowly into the back of a parked car, was tipped forward and slid down onto the road. He realised in that moment that he had twisted his neck and couldn't move. A crucial vertebra was broken.

How arbitrary is life and how sudden its betrayal. Jeff went to Lourdes twice expecting little from the miracle-inducing grotto, but he cheerfully said that Lourdes has the best facilities for the disabled of anywhere he had been!

His sister Audrey gave up her work as soon as Jeff was injured and she cared for him through all those long years. Now she is on her own, in her 80's.

Before Jeff's accident Barry was his tutor on the Teacher Training course at Huddersfield Polytechnic, and we have both remained friends with him for 30 years. Jeff always amazed us with his sense of humour, his courage and his sanity. He – and Audrey – have been an inspiration to so many people and we know he will be greatly missed.

He was always a very active man, once training to teach sports and outdoor pursuits in FE colleges. Even though he couldn't move he took a keen and deep interest in our travels. Whenever we visited him in Sheffield he was full of questions. It was obvious that he had read our emails and was up to date with our website. Enough to bring a tear to our old dry eyes.

How does one make sense of all this within any framework other than the most painful? Platitudes and superstitions abound on the subject of disability and death, but the brutal truth is that we have a sensitive and self-aware intelligence inside an animal's body which is bound to fail and self-destruct. Jeff faced that reality for many long years with a steady eye, a clear mind and courage beyond imagining. Never was he distracted by the trivia of everyday living.

Look at the spirit Jeff displayed in: http://www.jeffswheelchairwalks.net/

He was and remains a true inspiration to us and to all who knew him or knew of him.

We shall miss him, our one and only hero.

Barry and Margaret

Tributes to Jeff

We received the following tributes from friends who had read this memorial for Jeff:

"So sorry to hear the sad news of your friend. Looking at his travel page he still continued to live his live to the full even though in a wheelchair. Thinking of you both and condolences to his family." Carol & John in England

"Thank you for this. Jeff was a remarkable man and I am sure will continue to be an inspiration to many. I have just sung the last hymn through, sitting here on my own in the study." Anne in Scotland

"Although it's one's worst nightmare, look what happened: two people share such amazing adventures because they cared for each other. I doubt I have it in me. Thanks for adding insight to my day." Ruby in Perth, Western Australia

"Our condolences on the loss of a dear friend. Reading about Jeff, I wish I'd known him. He seems the epitome of courage." Joe & Margy in Scotland

"Very sorry to hear of the death of your friend Jeff.  He must have been extraordinary."  George in Scotland

"I was inspired by your words about Jeff Mason. He was a great man, with a wonderful sister.  I continue to believe that the world and its peoples move and develop because of the likes of Jeff.  One could vote for him." Peter in England

"Very sad to hear that you have lost an old friend. A brief look at his website and tribute indicates a truly inspiring person with determination abound. If only many able-bodied people had the same get-up-and-go." Ian in England

"Jeff sounds like a man I wish I had known." John in Ireland

"Sorry to hear of Jeff's passing. I've often heard you talk of him. Rejoice in the knowing of him." Dan in Italy

The webmaster of Jeff's Wheelchair Walks, Chris O'Hara, added the following tribute on the website:


Condolences appeared in the Sheffield Star newspaper:


The following condolence appeared in the Sheffield Telegraph on 26 January 2017:

"Though you could not walk for almost 30 years, the footprint you leave behind is bigger than most could ever hope to achieve. Rest in peace dear friend. Eileen, Peter and family."

John in southwest Ireland quoted John Dunne. In this poem, the link between individual freedom and that of the land in which we live is beautifully explored:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

On Burns Night itself (25 January 2017), Glaswegian George took time out to quote Scotland's National Poet:

An honest man here lies at rest,
As e'er God with His image blest:
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so inform'd:
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

Dan in Sicily, writing that Jeff would always be with us, sent us a link to the Incredible String Band's 'Be Glad for the Song has no Ending'.

Photographs of Jeff

There are 56 photographs of Jeff in a slide show on this website at:

The World of Jeff Mason

Here is a selection from the photographs:


Article in the Sheffield Star Newspaper

This article appeared in the Sheffield Star newspaper and is dated 15 January 2017

Jeff Mason who Friends Described as an 'Inspirational' Individual

An 'inspirational' former scout leader continued to do his bit for children in Sheffield after a freak cycling accident left him paralysed from the shoulders down.

Tributes have poured in for Jeff Mason, who died at his home in Handsworth in the early hours of Saturday, aged 72.

Friends and family told how he always remained positive and continued to play a big part in the community even after losing the use of his arms and legs following a crash 27 years ago.

One friend told how Jeff could only operate a computer by blowing down a tube but still created his own website and sent eagerly awaited newsletters to members of his local cricket club.

Jeff was group leader at Handsworth Scouts - a role he continued to fulfil for many years after his accident - a governor at St Joseph's School, in Handsworth, which he attended as a boy, and an active member of St Joseph's Catholic Church.

His condition failed to dim his love of the outdoors and he even created an online guide called Jeff's Wheelchair Walks, which listed accessible routes for other wheelchair users to explore.

Paul Phelan, who had known him since they were at primary school together, said: "Never once did he complain about his condition, and his positive attitude was an inspiration to us all.

"Whenever you were having a bad day you just had to think how Jeff would react and things would be all right."

Paul told how it was while Jeff was out delivering a letter for the scouts one Sunday that he cycled into the back of a parked car and went over his handlebars, wrecking his spine in the process.

Jeff, who never married or had any children, was lovingly cared for by his elder sister Audrey, who had to turn him twice every night to prevent him getting bed sores.

But he stayed upbeat despite his difficulties and remained a valuable member of the scouts, earning one of the movement's highest honours, the silver acorn.

Audrey said: "Jeff was the best brother you could ask for and he was an inspiration to so many people who knew him.

"He was very much a people's person and he especially liked young people because he found them so open and honest and he had a knack of interacting with them."

Jeff grew up in Darnall and attended St Joseph's School before leaving to become an apprentice at English Steel, as it was then known, aged 16.

He worked as a draughtsman for the firm before retraining as a sports teacher, only for his new career to be cut tragically short by his accident.

He was an accomplished sportsman, playing football for Scarborough Town and representing English Steel at cricket in the Yorkshire League.

Phil Streeter, vice captain of Handsworth St Joseph's Cricket Club second eleven, used to play cricket with Jeff, who continued to attend games most weekends after his injury.

"He was always smiling, never down, and he would do anything he could for you," said Phil.

Another close friend, Bill Beckett, who knew Jeff through their shared love of cricket, said: "Jeff was committed to supporting local activities, and was always a giver, never a taker.

"Even though he could only operate a computer by blowing down a tube, he would always send round an annual review, which members of the cricket club looked forward to receiving.

"He was an exceptional individual, who will be sorely missed."

The following comment was added to this article by an unidentified individual:

"RIP Jeff, and sincere condolences to Audrey and other loved ones. I was privileged to know Jeff and Audrey from St Joseph's. He was a friend of my late father and although in a wheelchair he was always positive! Jeff was an avid Wednesday fan too; good job he had so much practice taking the rough with the smooth! He will be missed."

The Arrangements for Jeff's Funeral

There was a Requiem Mass for Jeff on Monday January 30th at 1.45pm in St Joseph's Catholic Church in Handsworth, Sheffield. It was followed by his interment at the Handsworth Cemetery.

Chris O'Hara, the webmaster of Jeff's Wheelchair Walks website, wrote to us:

“Jeff had a wonderful send-off today at St Joseph's church. The church was absolutely packed. I have never seen it so full throughout the years that I have been there and Jeff had already organised the event down to the last details - as you might have expected. The hymns were totally appropriate, as were the readings and the eulogy and every event of his life was recorded, showing just how passionate he was about everything he undertook.”

Here is the Order of Service, as devised by Jeff: