COSHOCTON -- Mary Mason, owner of Agents Realty and Auction Service, was named 2015 Coshocton Business and Professional Women (BPW) Woman of the Year at Grace United Methodist Church.

Master of Ceremonies Tomma Bordenkircher said, "Our WOMAN OF THE YEAR this year is someone who loves to think 'outside the box. I think she was a flower child from the 60's, a free spirit. But our free spirit strongly believes in the power of education for women. She is devoted to her family and puts family above all else. OUR 2015 BPW WOMAN OF THE YEAR IS MARY MASON!"

OK, Mary Alice, which is how her family speaks of her, especially if she was in trouble, was born on Pen Feather Ridge in March of 1948. That was the year that the United States Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration act, making women a permanent part of the Marine Corps. It was also the very first time the infamous red Porsche hit the Highway! Two monumental events that would later be symbolic in the life and journey of a little red-headed girl who was raised on a farm - otherwise known as, "The Hill."

Some of you may also know this special hill in Warsaw, Ohio as the Gospel Hill, home of the country's largest inland lighthouse.

Mary marches to the sound of her own drummer. Mary and I have had several conversations traveling for BPW and I told Mary I could see her as a "flower child" in her early years. She has always been a feisty woman, but Mary has also been a hard worker. Her father was a coal miner and farmer and her Mother a cook and they instilled in her, her work ethic. Her Mother told her early on that she needed an education to get ahead. She did not heed that call right away. Mary traveled around the United States doing a variety of jobs, she wanted to go places, do things, and get her education from seeing and doing as many different things as possible. From this experience she discovered two important facts: She did not like working for other people and she realized that getting an education would help her get ahead and increase her earning power. She needed to be an entrepreneur. By this time she had her family. She instilled in them the importance of education and when she decided to go back to school she began a quarter before her daughter Sheri and they attended college together.

Going back to a formal classroom was a challenge. Can you imagine having to have your Daughter go to school and talk to your professor about your grades? Do you remember when I said Mary likes to think "outside the box?" Well it turned out that Mary did not follow the format of how to respond to the questions. To Mary those types of rules seemed a little silly when sometimes what you really need to do is think "outside the box."

Mary survived the formalities of the classroom and she and Sheri walked across the stage together to receive their degrees with the youngest children, Ryan and Leah taking photos from the crowd. Mary started with an Associate of Science Degree in Business and Accounting. In 1988 she would return to Coshocton to take care of her ill Mother. She continued her classes at The Ohio State University. She has taught classes herself at the college level in real estate.

As a BPW member Mary became involved in our Individual Development Program (ID). She is now an ID instructor. BPW has had a Cake Auction as a fund raiser for 10 years and Mary and Sheri have been our auctioneers for each year. She donated her services because she believed in our mission. Again supporting education for women.

Mary, your daughter Leah shared a story with us. She said when she was young she often had to explain to others that her name is Leah, and not "My Leah." Those of you who were at our last meeting at Eddie Ryan's Restaurant might remember that she did introduce her youngest as My Leah! A mere example of a mother's pride. Today this pride extends onto her amazing grandchildren and "grandoggies". Mary loves her mini-farm and her dogs Scooter and Snickers.

I mentioned that Mary took the BPW ID class. Part of her journey was competing at the local, region, and state level. The one thing we stress and carefully work on with everyone is the five minute timed speech. We teach them how to combine their thoughts to say what they want in the least amount of words. Mary's speech was on the Health Issue's of our platform. It was about the effects of GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) in your food and the effect they have on your body. We had practiced her timing for weeks. She had it on her tablet and had a timer on it. She was sure she had this timing thing down pat.

She began her speech, she was rolling long, she had good posture, and she was projecting her voice perfectly. The timer gave her the 1 minute signal, and then she gave her the 30 sec. signal. We practice what to do when the 30 second signal is given but Mary was on a roll. She ended up speaking over 7 minutes that day! When we asked her what happened, her response was, "I had important health information that I wanted everyone to hear and that was more important to me than winning." That's our Mary, still thinking "outside the box."

Mary has served on many committees in the community. She recently served on the committee which recognized the 50 years of education at River View High School; they now have a striking Black Bear Monument that represents the past, present and future achievements of River View High School. But she is most proud of her association with the American Cancer Society. Mary is a cancer survivor and plans to beat all of the issues with her current auto-immune disease. Mary is determined to always be a survivor. Mary is a great mentor for all women. Her happiness resides not in record-breaking sales, or the success of her business; but in the honor of helping others and sharing her love for this beautiful gift of life that each of us has been given. Mary learned at a young age that "What you put into it is what you get out of it". If you were to ask her for advice she would say, "be happy, work hard, never give up on your dreams and count your blessings every day, you have many more blessings than you realize".

MARY, I invite you to say a few words, but please don't talk for seven minutes.