The Way We Were: Bill and Julie Mason

The Way We Were: Bill and Julie Mason
Julie and Bill Mason in Cuba in 2015 posing next to a 1956 Ford.

Juliette “Julie” Baldwin Mason is a seventh-generation native Floridian from a pioneering American family whose ancestors arrived at Plymouth Colony in 1621 on the Fortune, which landed two weeks following the Mayflower. Members of her family fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as well as World War I and II.  

One of three children born to Richard and Catharine Baldwin of Winter Park, Florida, Julie notes that her father was a World War II hero who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was one of the liberators of the Nazi Concentration Camp, Dachau. As a child who grew up hearing about her proud heritage, Julie has followed in the footsteps of her illustrious ancestors by making her own history in Jacksonville as a prolific nonprofit fundraiser, an advocate for children, a volunteer for Community Hospice & Palliative Care of Northeast Florida and as Chief Operating Officer of the Baptist Health Foundation.  

Julie and Bill Mason, center, with Baptist Neurosurgeons Eric Sauvageau and Ricardo Hanel
Julie and Bill Mason, center, with Baptist Neurosurgeons Eric Sauvageau and Ricardo Hanel

While conducting a capital campaign to build the new Wolfson Children’s Hospital in the early 1990s, Julie worked closely with Dr. William C. “Bill” Mason, the Chief Executive Officer of Baptist Health. The extremely successful campaign raised more than $25 million to build the new children’s hospital.  

Bill and Julie later were married at First Congregational Church of Winter Park on April 17, 1993. A second marriage for both, Julie and Bill Mason have since enjoyed 26 marvelous years together, sharing children and grandchildren in their beautiful San Marco home as well as their mutually passionate interests in philanthropy, humanity, travel, history, entertaining, gardening, church, and, most particularly, the continuing welfare of the citizens of Jacksonville. 

Bill Mason was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1938, and grew up in the coastal city of Fairhope, Alabama. He recalls that being a child in the shadow of the encroaching World War II greatly influenced his boyhood. “My father was involved in the war effort and I spent much of my time in the company of both my maternal and paternal grandparents,” he remembers. “My maternal grandfather, The Rev. Dr. William H. Evans, was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fairhope, and my mother was one of his 10 children. My paternal grandfather, Dr. William C. Mason, was the town dentist and pharmacist, and raised seven boys. Both grandfathers were extremely influential in our town and the surrounding countryside, and they taught me many life lessons. As a result of their guidance, I naturally gravitated toward a career in hospital administration (ad ministrare ‘to serve’), a unique combination of their two vocations.”

Having earned degrees from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette and Trinity University in San Antonio (and later earning a doctorate degree from the University of North Florida in Health and Education Leadership), Dr. Mason began his career in health administration as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development, a division of the U.S. State Department. He served as Health Administration Advisor while posted to the American Embassy in Manila, Philippines and in Saigon, South Vietnam in the 1960s. He was then appointed chief executive officer of the Baptist Hospitals in East Africa, serving in Kenya and in Tanzania. During that time, he also consulted on construction of Baptist Hospitals in Djibla, Yemen, Asuncion, Paraguay and Sanyati, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Just prior to coming to Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, Bill built a new Baptist Medical Center in Bangalore, India and was its first CEO from 1974 to 1978.

Julie Mason with First Lady Barbara Bush, Bill’s mother, Sibyl Mason, and Bill in 1993 for the opening of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Julie Mason with First Lady Barbara Bush, Bill’s mother, Sibyl Mason, and Bill in 1993 for the opening of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Like his grandfathers, Bill Mason became an efficient, highly respected multi-tasker.  While serving as Baptist Health System’s CEO for a quarter of a century, he served his community in several capacities. He was chairman of the Florida Hospital Association, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Jacksonville Port Authority, Jacksonville Children’s Commission, Jacksonville Community Council (JCCI) and president of the downtown Rotary Club of Jacksonville. After retiring, he served as interim director of the graduate program in Health Administration at the University of North Florida and also taught graduate level classes as a professor in that program for five years.

While her husband was at the helm of several community organizations, Julie Mason, a member of Mensa who earned her B.A. degree in English from Florida State University, forged her own path as a woman of influence at the forefront of several worthwhile organizations, chairing the boards of Community Hospice, the JCCI, Planned Parenthood, and serving on a governor-appointed special committee of the State University System of Florida. An alumna of Leadership Jacksonville, Leadership Florida and Leadership America and a recent EVE finalist, Julie is currently helping to direct Community Hospice’s capital campaign for a new hospice unit within Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. It is to be called the Alice and T. O’Neal Douglas Center for Caring, and will open for patients in early November 2019, when the fine art created by several local artists and curated by Julie Mason will enhance the experience of all who enter.  

Julie and Bill Mason were instrumental in helping rebuild Hendricks Avenue Baptist after a devastating fire in 2007.
Julie and Bill Mason were instrumental in helping rebuild Hendricks Avenue Baptist after a devastating fire in 2007.

Julie and Bill Mason have traveled to more than 75 countries and all seven continents during their years together, and their beautiful home in San Marco reflects many of their adventures in foreign lands. Some of Bill’s most remarkable adventures occurred long before he came to Jacksonville, and these he has compiled into a book of stories and photographs for his family. Just one example is his claim that he may be the only man in Jacksonville who spent the night in a jail in Yemen. Suffice it to say that he was not guilty of a crime other than flying into the Yemeni Airport very late at night in a country that was extremely suspicious of foreigners and concerned for his safety. “Several missionary doctors at our remote Baptist Hospital in Djibla had just been assassinated,” recalls Bill, adding that a night in jail paled in significance.  

Closer to home, the Masons are quite active at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, where Julie chairs the board of the Little Friends Daycare Center and sings in the choir, as well as serving as a Deacon. They were instrumental in restoring the church after the devastating fire destroyed it in 2007. Bill chaired the pipe organ selection committee and commissioned the building of the new organ.

Bill and Julie Mason against the background of the Pyrenees in Spain.
Bill and Julie Mason against the background of the Pyrenees in Spain.

Both adventurers and lifelong learners, Julie and Bill continue to be a power couple who are on a constant quest for more of what life has to offer. In 2006, for instance, Bill earned his private pilot’s license at the Jacksonville Center for Aviation Excellence and has flown his airplane on many cross-country trips to places of historic significance, such as Little Big Horn, Yellowstone, and the entire length of the Lewis and Clark Trail to the Pacific Ocean. Julie, who has been an avid reader of books since childhood, and has written commentary for National Public Radio, magazines and professional journals, once winning the Florida Freelance Writer’s Competition, explains her love of the written word by quoting the 15th century scholar, Erasmus, “If I have any money, I buy books. If I have any left over, I buy food and clothes.”

A couple who love to travel, the Masons insist that coming home to San Marco is the ultimate joy. There, they raise butterflies, in particular monarch and several kinds of swallowtails, having turned their backyard into a Certified Wildlife Refuge.  

“We love our neighborhood and our wonderful neighbors, and the beautiful St. Johns River at the end of our street,” declares Julie. “Our back deck provides pleasant hours for all sorts of occasions, from parties with friends to quiet glasses of wine together at the end of the day. We are blessed to live in such a pleasant place.”

Susan D. Brandenburg
Resident Community News

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