Mrs. Berna Mason was born on December
26, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan. She is the daughter of
William McConnell and Edna Stommon. Mrs. McConnell migrated
to Detroit with her father, Arthur, in 1909 from Macon,
Georgia when she was around three years old. Mr. McConnell
came to Detroit from Nova Scotia, Canada. Mrs. Mason
began living with her mother's cousin several years
before her mother's death in 1940. Her father died in
decided to leave Cass Technical High School near the
beginning of her senior year in 1947 to get married.
After raising five children, as well as putting one
of them through the University of Michigan, Mrs. Mason
decided to return to school herself in 1971. She began
her GED studies at Wayne County Community College and
subsequently enrolled at the University of Michigan.
Her husband died in 1976.
received her bachelor's degree in business education
in 1979 and her master's in education administration
in 1980, both from the University of Michigan. She was
featured in a story about older college students in
the Fall 1978 (Tenth Anniversary) issue of Nutshell
is knowledgeable about community folk healers and nontraditional
health care providers, such as homeopathic practitioner
Mother Bracey. Mrs. Mason has taught business courses
at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan
and then at Marygrove College in Detroit.
the director of admissions and financial aid at Jordan
College in Flint, Michigan and has taught accounting
and computer programming languages in the Birmingham,
Michigan Public Schools. She has been an employment
counselor with the Michigan Employment Security Commission
and a contract specialist/departmental analyst with
the State of Michigan's Office of Finance and Administrative
has had memberships in the Michigan Education Association,
American Vocational Association, Occupational Education
Association, Business Education Teachers Association,
and American Education Association. She has also embarked
on entrepreneurial ventures in the areas of home improvement
and transportation services.
Mason discusses her relationship with Mother Bracey,
an informal neighborhood health provider
Do you recall any informal type advisors, like health
advisors in the neighborhood?
I went to Mother Bracey because I took my husband there
and I was a grown woman then. She was a homeopathic
doctor and her husband was a chiropractor. But, that
wasn't in the 40s. That was in the 70s.
Tell us a little bit about Mother Bracey.
[have] you ever heard of homeopathy?
Yes, but why don't you tell us about it.
I guess it's like a precursor of modern medicine. I
found out about it [when] my husband had lung cancer.
He didn't want to be at U of M [Hospital] and I didn't
want [him] to be at U of M, either, because I was trying
to go to school and it was a burden for me for him to
be at the hospital. And he didn't want to be there.
So, I took him home. So, they had given him up. They
said that he's terminal. Well, he couldn't smoke anymore
because smoke bothered him, because he had lung cancer.
So, I was making-this is something I was doing on my
own-I was taking marijuana [and] making the tea, just
steeping it to make tea, and giving him that, putting
honey, lemon juice [in it and] giving him that. Because
he didn't want to be on [any] drugs and he wasn't going
to take chemotherapy and all the rest of that stuff.
So, I just made the tea.
a friend of mine told me about this woman named Mother
Bracey. And she said, "Take him down to Mother Bracey.
Mother Bracey probably can heal him. Because [there'd]
be people lined up all the way around the block because
when they would give people up at Harper Hospital and
different places, the doctors would tell them, 'Go around
there and see Mother Bracey.'" And so, I took him around
there. I took him down there and [there were] a lot
of people in there. I took Jimmy, my husband by there
and she said, "You don't want to live, do you?" And
he said, "No, ma'am." And she said, "Well, take him
on away, because it ain't no need of me being bothered
with [somebody who] don't want to live."
want to be disabled and [be confined to] wheelchairs
and all. And I'm like that, too. So, anyway, she told
me, she said, "Well, I can tell you how to get Laetrile."
[Have] you ever heard of Laetrile? Laetrile is [made
from] apricots. Anyway, it's against the law to give
people Laetrile [in the United States].
What does it do?
supposed to help with cancer.
Is it like a narcotic effect or [what]? Why would it
be against [the law to dispense it]?
R: I don't
know. That's what people wonder. But, anyway, I had
to get it, I had to violate the law. Mother Bracey had
to tell me where to get it from Mexico and you had to
send the money down there to get it. It's ridiculous.
But, anyway, it's spelled L-a-e-t-r-i-l-e, Laetrile.
I think it comes from apricots. Because homeopathic
stuff is natural, it's a natural process. It's not narcotics
or anything like that. Anyway, I got it and it helped
him for a while. I don't know whether it was psychosomatic
or what it was, but it seemed to help him. I was giving
it to him when he died and I was also giving him my
little remedy of making marijuana tea. And so, I know
that he never did have to take morphine or any of this
It was helping him deal with the pain?
he was able to deal with [it]. He didn't have any pain
because I would keep him filled up on that tea and I'd
give him that Laetrile. And I was right there when he
died. I certainly wasn't going to put him in no nursing
home. [I'm not] into nursing homes. I didn't put him
there. I was right there, right there with him.