Tributes have been paid to Airgas co-founder Thomas Mason who passed away at the end of November surrounded by his family.
Born in 1933 in Somerville, New Jersey, Mason is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years Peggy Joy and his three children; Terry, Tom and Cindy. He had 10 grandchildren.
Graduating from Somerville High School in 1951, Mason’s love of flying began during high school when he participated in the Civil Air Patrol. He went on to attend Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), graduating in 1955 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. While at RPI he was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, Navy ROTC and he played football. He married Peggy Joy Montaque, his high school sweetheart, in June 1955.
After college Mason earned his Navy Wings of Gold having received primary training in Pensacola Florida, and advanced in Hutchinson Kansas, San Diego California and Hawaii. Mason and his wife were then assigned to a Willy Victor Squadron for two years in Hawaii where he flew the Navy’s Lockheed EC-121 Early Warning aircraft.
He joined a Reserve Squadron after leaving active duty and returned to Somerville where he began his career in the industrial gas industry at Air Reduction Incorporated. In 1962 Mason was recalled to active duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis flying the Grumman S2F Tracker patrolling the eastern seaboard for Russian submarines. He continued as a reservist and retired from the Navy after 20 years of service as a Lieutenant Commander. In recognition of his service, Mason will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
In returning to civilian life, Mason picked up his career in the industrial gas industry as Vice-President of Burdett Oxygen Co. In 1982 he embarked on the second part of his career and co-founded Airgas Inc. Mason and his partner, Peter McCausland, bought Connecticut Oxygen, the first of several hundred US gas and welding distributors. Mason was instrumental in developing Airgas into a very successful many faceted multi-billion dollar company, became the largest gas and welding supplier in the US, and was listed on the NYSE exchange in 1986.
Mason also served in many industry associations including IOMA (International Oxygen Manufacturers Association) of which he served as president in 1996 and other industry groups. He retired from Airgas in 1997, and will be missed by all who worked with him in Airgas and the industrial gas industry.
In a statement, Airgas said, “As a hands-on chief operating professional and master salesman, Tom was a perfect complement to Peter McCausland, from the founding of Airgas back in the early 1980’s and throughout Airgas’ formative years. Tom’s easygoing, optimistic manner and customer-centric approach helped lay the cultural foundation for Airgas’ growth over the ensuing three decades. He was a friend and mentor to those who were fortunate to work with him, and he was respected by all who had the privilege to know him.”
His family added, “He will be remembered by all who knew him for his wit, generosity, devotedness, and the way his presence would light up a room.”
A memorial service will be planned for the spring of 2018.