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 Martha Ann Mason

Martha Ann Mason

Cleveland County, North Carolina, USA
Death 4 May 2009 (aged 71)
Lattimore, Cleveland County, North Carolina, USA
Burial Swainsville, Cleveland County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 36744821 · View Source
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Author. Polio Survivor. Friend to all. Martha is thought to have lived longer in an iron lung than any other polio survivor.

Born in the rural foothills of North Carolina, Martha Ann Mason led the happy life of a carefree child. She climbed trees, rode bikes, skated, swam, played tennis and basketball, giggled with girlfriends, flirted with boyfriends and teased her beloved brother Gaston. The idyllic life came crashing down in late summer of 1948 when the polio epidemic crept into the tiny town of Lattimore and shut down the schools, then took Gaston's life on September 10th.

Three days later, at only 11 years old, little Martha was diagnosed with the same disease and her journey began.

After a year in hospitals, the Masons brought their daughter home. They had no intention of letting the doctors' dire prediction of death within one year come true.

In some cultures it takes a village to rear a child, and in tiny Lattimore the village did indeed come together to help. Martha could no longer go to school, so the school came to her as the teachers gathered to devise a schedule to help her through grammar then high school where she was valedictorian at her graduation. Then onward and upward she sped first to Gardner Webb College, then Wake Forest University. This Demon Deacon picked up a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduated summa cum laude along the way toward grabbing that sheepskin.

Also along the way she met and "collected" many people, some famous, many not. Martha was a great people collector and after graduation when she returned to her home in Lattimore those people came right along with her. Through these people and their camcorders she traveled the earth and sampled its wares. She stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and tasted the world's best wines.

Martha loved to listen, loved to talk, and loved to read anything in print including the 'New York Times', 'Washington Post', 'The Times' of London and the 'Charlotte Observer', along with novels, great literature, and poetry. But perhaps her greatest love was writing.

Since childhood she had kept journals, and written stories and for a time was a reporter for the local newspaper, the 'Cleveland Times'. In 2003 she gave us all a glimpse into her remarkable life when she published "Breath, Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung, A Memoir". Martha wasn't a free breather for most of her life, but she was a free thinker and her brilliance shines through her writing.

Her 61 years in the iron lung can be summed up in her own words: "People from here and there have sometimes felt sorry for me because they see me as a person who is trapped in a useless body, trapped in an iron lung, trapped in a place not even big enough for a stoplight. They need not shed tears for me. … The roads I travel with friends are endless."

Martha's book:

Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung
A Memoir
Copyright 2003 by Martha Mason
First Printing, March 2003
ISBN 1-878086-95-2
Library of Congress Control Number: 2002115663

Family Members


  • Created by: Judith Parker-Proctor
  • Added: 5 May 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 36744821
  • Judith Parker-Proctor
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Martha Ann Mason (31 May 1937–4 May 2009), Find A Grave Memorial no. 36744821, citing Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church Cemetery, Swainsville, Cleveland County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Judith Parker-Proctor (contributor 46583208) .