Mason A. Witt
Mason loved history, especially that of his hometown Houston, Minnesota as well as Houston Township, and Houston County. After living away for a period, he was able to return once more to the Bluff Country he loved before he died on Saturday, December 23, 2017, at the Valley View Healthcare and Rehab center in Houston, Minnesota.
Mason Arthur Witt, 87, was born September 19, 1930, to Arthur D. and Marion J. (Mason) Witt, at Grandview Hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He would spend his childhood growing up on their farms; first on South Ridge, and then in Looney Valley, Houston Township, Houston County Minnesota. He attended grade school in Upper Looney Valley, and then Houston High School, where he graduated in 1947.
Mason attended Winona State Teachers College and taught rural school in Money Creek, Minnesota, during the 1949/1950 school year. He then continued his education at the University of Minnesota - Minneapolis and graduated from there in 1952 with a degree in Anthropology.
Mason returned to farming in Houston, until he accepted a position with the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in 1956. He would return to Houston to farming the family farm in Looney Valley with his brother, Mark Witt in 1958.
Mason's intense love of history led him to participate in the reorganization meeting for the Houston County Historical Society in 1960, and he was elected as the first president of the revived organization. He participated in the ground-breaking for the first museum building, and remained a life member.
Mason began working as the editor of the Houston Signal in 1973, which later became the Houston Gazette & Country Journal. In 1992 he began to work as an Administrative Assistant for the Houston Community Education program in the Houston Schools until he retired in December 2002. Mason participated in civic duties as a Houston Township Board Supervisor for three years, and the Township Clerk for 26 years. He was an election judge, and served as Treasurer on the Silver Creek Cemetery Board for many years.
Mason's family was a very high priority. He spent much of his life researching his family's history, becoming an accomplished genealogy researcher, and helping many others with their genealogy research. He was a long-time member of the La Crosse Area Genealogy Society. Mason enjoyed collecting antiques, and artifacts. He helped his mother with her antique business, attending many auctions, and traveled with her on antiques buying trips. He loved to read all types of literature, especially historical.
In December 2002, Mason moved to Waterford, Wisconsin, and later to East Troy, Wisconsin, with his partner Douglas Tomas. While there, he continued his genealogy research, and joined the German Interest Group - Wisconsin, a German genealogy association in Janesville, Wisconsin. He also joined the Rochester Area Historical Society, in Rochester, Wisconsin, where he helped with cataloging papers, photos, and artifacts into their museum collection. Mason and Douglas did some traveling, culminating with a trip of a lifetime to Europe in December 2011/January 2012 to Munich, Germany; Vicenza, Italy; Prague, Czech Republic; and Wyrzysk, Poland. There Mason was able to walk the land where some of his ancestors lived before coming to America. After 15 years in East Troy, Mason returned to Houston on December 7, 2017.
He is survived by his partner of 19 years; Douglas Tomas, his sister Rachel (Glenn) Ukkestad of Rushford, his brother Mark (Kathryn) Witt of Houston; nieces and nephews; Elizabeth (Allen) LaFleur, Rushford, Carl Ukkestad, La Crescent, Diane (Russel) Hummel, Money Creek, Kenneth (Courtney Moe) Witt, Allen Witt, and Riquell Witt, all of Houston, numerous cousins, and a special friend, Shirley Johnson.
Mason is preceded in death by his parents, a brother Arnold, brother-in-law Glenn Ukkestad, and nephew Daniel Witt.
A memorial service will be held 1 PM with visitation one hour prior, Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Hoff Funeral and Cremation Service, Houston. Celebrant Vicky Nelson will be officiating the service. Please view his tribute video and leave a memory at hofffuneral.com
The family suggests memorial contributions be sent to the Houston County Historical Society, in Caledonia, Minnesota, or the Rochester Area Historical Society in Rochester, Wisconsin.
Agnes Koch & Mason Witt - May 2013
I met Mason when I was about 8 years old and he was working in the D.C. area for a year or so. Of course he became my "boyfriend". My mother was always so thrilled to have a family member or friend visit us from her hometown. Through the years I visited Houston with my mother and we always visited Marion Witt (and Mason whenever he was home). I never stopped to think that Alice Witt was Mason's aunt. She was my mom's childhood friend as they were about the same age. Marion was a schoolmate of my Aunt Julia. Doug, I so loved the video presentation. Thanks for including the one of your visit to see Mama and me. I know Mason appreciated having you in his life to add even more meaning and happiness than he would have had. My best thoughts to you. Julie Koch-Michael (Agnes Johnson Koch's daughter)
Mason Witt, Żuławka, Poland, January, 2012, area of his ancestors.
Mason Witt & Shirley Johnson, receiving a plaque of appreciation for years of service to Houston County Historical Society, November 2, 2014
Mason Witt, with great-grand-nephew Samuel Dale Olstad, April, 2017
Mason Witt & Douglas Tomas, Prague, Czech Republic, New Years Day, 2012.
Mason Witt - Munich, Germany, Christmas Day, 2011.
Mason with nephew Kenneth Witt, and his sons Tilden and Emerson, and Mason's 78 year old grapefruit tree, November, 2016.
I always looked forward to seeing Mason's smiling face at German Interest Group meetings and workshops in Wisconsin. He was a friend from the first time I met him. Intelligent, humble and a man with a true and infective passion for the pursuit of ancestors. We could always count on Mason. and will miss him.
Such fond Memories, Mason so proper and stately, with wide intellectual interest; and Doug with his love of flying and photography. I am pleased that they met at my house for an Octoberfest Dinner, it can't be nearly 20 years ago.
Our sincere sympathy to Mason's family, especially Doug, Rachel and family, and friend Shirley. Sincerely appreciate his love of history! God's peace to all. Sincerely, Jonathan, Dorothy, and Josef Pettit
We were fortunate enough to know Mason through Doug ( Douglas per Mason:). Masons gentle smile and warm nature will be missed greatly. I wish him the peace he deserves and I know he will be busy talking with all the historical figures he admired so much. That will ,no doubt ,keep him busy until we will join him ourselves. Thank you Mason for the wonderful memories!! Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mason's extended family and friends. Sam and Shari Taber
Douglas, Rachel and families,
I'm so sorry to hear about Mason's passing. I feel fortunate to have known what a kind gentleman he was who loved his family, history and the spirit of legacy. He treasured the past, embraced today's quests for knowledge and understanding and wanted it recorded for future generations. May many loving memories comfort you. His legacy to you. Hugs-Julie, Meg and family
Rest in Peace Mason, it was a pleasure to have known you and worked with you at the Houston Gazette and the Farmers Voice. Kay Nelson
Gary and I Enjoyed the friendship we shared with Mason. Our whole family got to meet him and over time spend brief greetings with him, even children I babysat for got to know Mason.....our lives were touched by him and we won't forget our 15 years of knowing him !! Our hearts go out to his family and all of his friends, Prayers to the family during this sad time.
Gary and Joni Beck
Our sympathy to the family of Mason Witt. We were so fortunate to have him as the Archivist of the Rochester Area Historical Society in Rochester WI. Back in 2002 or 2003 Mason walked in to our Annual Meeting. We didn't even know how to do the elections properly and he took it on and explained....job done. As the meeting ended he asked permission to join, permission, who asks permission to volunteer?? Well Mason did and I said, All you need is an interest in history and you are in!! " From the next meeting on Mason sat and taught us how to do the numbering system, our accession sheets are modeled after HOUSTON COUNTIES sheets. Two of us stayed on for a bit and then it was Mason and I til the first week of Aug 2015 we met every Tuesday night or every Wednesday afternoon barring Snow or Ice, we met. Our Historical Society is forever indebted to Mason for all the time and treasure he gave us to get the society organized. At one time we received a collection from Minnesota, NINE boxes , pretty organized I must admit, and very well taken care of. We worked on the collection for 4 years. When we were finished with the over 4,000 items, Mason looked up at me and said, " That is the biggest collection I have ever worked on in my life!' I said, "What?? Why didn't you say that before?" He replied." I didn't want to overwhelm you!" Little steps gets the job done!" That was about our last project as I had a few health issues come up and so did Mason.....I promise to stay on track and continue the great job we did together and always remember who taught Kathy and I " the ROPES".....He also said something else that we have to focus on, the fact that you are never "done" archiving. I hope he can guide Kathy and I from his cloud....if he just sends us some help when we are stuck it would help and if I know Mason he will.......a Gentleman with a BIG heart!! He will........and we will carry on in his honor!!
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