The source of the $78,000 anonymous donation that was made to the city of Hillsboro in late 2013 said Wednesday he has decided to go public, despite the fact he would have preferred not to be given any credit for the gift.
William Mason Jr., best known locally for the family-owned Miller-Mason Paving Company, told The Times-Gazette on Wednesday that the donation came from his family’s charitable trust, officially known as the William C. Mason Charitable Remainder Unitrust. The trust has been donating money to various entities since it was established back in 1992.
As The Times-Gazette reported in August 2014, the newspaper had requested and received from the city a copy of the letter from the donor, which included the man’s name. As was reported then, “The Times-Gazette has respected the donor’s wish to remain anonymous, but has examined the letter he sent.”
In June, The Times-Gazette interviewed Mason by telephone, when he again requested not to be identified. He said he hoped his anonymity would be preserved because he did not want attention or credit for the gift, and wants nothing in return.
But on Wednesday, Mason said he was aware of numerous requests for the city to reveal his identity. The most recent request came during Monday night’s city council meeting when county resident James Matticks asked city council President Lee Koogler to urge the administration to release the information, as The Times-Gazette reported in its council coverage.
Mason said that over the past two-plus decades Wilmington College has been the primary beneficiary of the charitable trust. The college’s Kettering Center includes a center named after the Mason family.
Mason said Wednesday that he grew up in Hillsboro and raised his children here. He has lived in Florida the past 10 years. He said that Wilmington College was in need of more funds for expansion, so when closing out the charitable trust, he gave the bulk of what was left to the college, another donation to the Methodist Church, and the remainder, $78,168.64, to Hillsboro.
A letter accompanying the funds stated, “It is my wish that the funds be used for a special project to benefit the citizens of Hillsboro. I would not want the funds to be used to pay accounts payable or any outstanding bills. The mayor shall have full discretion as to the direction of the funds. Thank you for this consideration from an anonymous donor and longtime resident of the city of Hillsboro.”
Once the money was given, Mason maintained no legal right to mandate how it was used, even though the letter stated it should be used at the mayor’s discretion. Mayor Drew Hastings acknowledged at the time that council’s approval would be needed before the funds are expended.
Hastings said Wednesday he has done his best to honor Mason’s wishes to remain anonymous, out of respect for the donor’s generosity and despite criticism for doing so. He said he was glad Mason stepped forward if that’s what he wanted to do.
Mason said Wednesday he has always had a special affection for Hillsboro. He recalled a time in the 1960s when the city reservoir ran dry, and his company pumped 65 million gallons of water to the city to help alleviate the problem. He said a similar circumstance happened sometime later.
As he did when he was interviewed earlier, Mason on Wednesday had praise for Hastings, saying, “I think he’s been good for Hillsboro. The city looks better than ever.”
When it was originally received, Koogler had the funds placed in the city’s Parks and Recreation Fund, with Hastings saying he hoped to use it toward the construction of an uptown plaza. Mason said in his first conversation with The Times-Gazette that he thought the plaza was a positive idea.
On Wednesday, when told Mason had decided to drop his request for anonymity, Koogler said, “It was very gracious of Mr. Mason to do so. His generosity is very much appreciated.”
The Miller-Mason Paving Company is the parent company of Ohio Asphaltic Limestone Corporation. According to an online company description, “Ohio Asphaltic Limestone Corporation is a local family owned and operated business which has been in operation since 1935 and is in its third generation of the family owned business. The business was started by William C. Mason Sr. and was continued by his son William C. Mason Jr. with three of his children now operating the business.”
The company is located just outside Hillsboro on Mad River Road.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.