Armstrong: Beloved grandson of WHAT's Mary Mason allegedly stole her savings

Mary Mason introduces then-Philly Mayor John Street, left, and former President Bill Clinton during a rally to help re-elect Street at the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia on Oct. 31, 2003.

You didn't mess with Mary Mason. The sharp-tongued former radio host, whose real name is Beatrice E. Turner, was known for being tough on Philly politicians and anyone else who ran afoul of her or didn't do as she thought they should.

Mornings with Mary on WHAT radio was for decades required listening for thousands of Philadelphians. She regularly had politicians and other civic leaders shaking in their wingtips. No one was safe from her harangues, and she amassed a small fortune in the process.

But there was one person for whom she never had a harsh word: her grandson. Mason doted on that kid. She would go on and on about her precious "grandbaby."

I wonder what Mason, 86 and confined to a wheelchair by dementia, would say about him now --  if she knew that he stands accused of absconding with her entire estate and leaving her destitute.

Calvin Steven Turner IV, Mason's only heir, is scheduled to be formally arraigned Wednesday morning in Montgomery County Court in Norristown on a litany of charges involving the theft of his grandmother's considerable estate.

Authorities say he stole $843,000 of Mason's savings and investments and spent it on everything from liquor and food to a Las Vegas strip club. It would have been a bigger amount, if another $62,000 had not been recovered by a court-appointed attorney from the sale of real estate Turner, 33, allegedly had purchased with his grandmother's money.

"It's a very sad case," said David A. Jaskowiak, the lawyer appointed in 2016 to handle Mason's finances.

"Suffice it to say that had she had the resources she had when she retired without any dissipation by her grandson, she would have more than ample resources to afford her good care for the rest of her life." 

The airwaves surrounding Mason's finances started to develop static in 2012 following the sudden death of Turner's father, C. Steven Turner. By this time, she had been diagnosed with dementia.

According to the criminal complaint, the grandson had Mason sign a document giving him power of attorney over her finances. He created a company called Turner Real Estate Holdings Inc. and began dipping into Mason's accounts, buying real estate, and making other transactions, court documents allege. He allegedly sold his grandmother's two condos for $160,000 profit, starting a pattern of wheeling and dealing.

As of last year, Mason's bill was going unpaid at Sunrise of Lafayette Hill, in Montgomery County, where she'd lived for 4 1/2 years. She has since moved to an undisclosed location.

Last April, Mason was granted a court-appointed attorney to act as her executor and oversee her finances.

A longtime family friend, Debbie Satterwhite, is in charge of looking out for Mason's physical needs. She has created a nonprofit called the Mary Mason Care Project to help her and other seniors who need niceties such as new nightgowns or TV sets.  Satterwhite also hopes to prepay Mason's funeral expenses at DeBaptiste Funeral Homes.

I asked Satterwhite what Mason would make of the charges facing her grandson. 

"I don't think she would go for him being prosecuted," Satterwhite replied. "She thought the sun rose and the moon set on him. I don't think she would go for this."

"He basically took money that he was going to inherit but he didn't inherit it yet because she's still living ... I think he meant to do good," said Turner's attorney, Martin P. Mullaney.  "He had a plan in mind to make money from the money. But his timing and the development issues he dealt with made his plan not work out.

"He would have been a hero if he'd doubled or tripled the money ... His intentions weren't mischievous in nature. If he was stealing from anybody, it was ultimately himself."

Had it been anyone but her grandson, the Mary Mason I remember would have ripped him to shreds on the air.

Contributions to the Mary Mason Care Project can be mailed to 744 South St., Suite 767, Philadelphia, PA 19147.