Philanthropy

Your Will Says A Lot About You

October 30, 2019

Life was good to Lin and Ethel Mason, and the Norfolk restaurant owners found a way to return the favor – leaving a bequest that will forever benefit people in Hampton Roads through grants to an array of nonprofits.

Life was good to Lin and Ethel Mason, and the Norfolk restaurant owners found a way to return the favor – leaving a bequest that will forever benefit people in Hampton Roads through an unrestricted fund at their community foundation.

For more than 30 years Lin and Ethel owned Mason’s Seafood Restaurant in Norfolk -- a popular Granby Street eatery known for inventing Crab Norfolk.

Lin and Ethel Mason

Lin was frugal, rode the bus to work and invested in stocks. In 1979 he and Ethel closed their restaurant during its best business year. They enjoyed traveling, dancing the tango and entertaining friends in their home. After Ethel died in 1986 Lin worked with an attorney to create a permanent foundation fund that would start after his death. His attorney connected with the community foundation’s staff to craft the arrangement without ever revealing Lin’s identity.

Leaving a Legacy

Lin always said he was going to give most everything to charity, and that is exactly what he did. After his death in 2009 at age 97, his $2.2 million gift to the community came to the foundation letting the Masons live forever through their philanthropy.

The Masons’ unrestricted fund gives the foundation the flexibility to address community needs that Lin and Ethel couldn’t have imagined. Each year more than $100,000 in Mason grants to an array of nonprofits help them make Hampton Roads an even better place to live and work. Recent grants have helped expand the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science, renovate the Wells Theatre and helped the Elizabeth River Project expand its environmental programs for youth.

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