Memorial remembers Modesto man killed while walking his dog

Service lauds slaying victim's generous spirit

May 9, 2008 

Hundreds of people walked, drove and bicycled into Legion Park to remember Clarence "Buddy" Mason, who was shot and killed last week in the airport neighborhood while he walked his dog.

"This isn't even half the people he knows, from Sacramento all the way to Washington," said friend Patty Mejia.

Police are looking for Mason's killer, who they suspect is a 23-year-old gang member.

Mejia was one of about 250 people who filled picnic tables and sat in the grass in a shady grove by the Tuolumne River on Wednesday for Mason's memorial service.

On April 29, Mason was walking his dog with a friend at about 2:30 a.m. near Kerr and Larkin avenues when a man shot them. Mason, 51, was killed. His friend was shot in the leg but survived.

Mourners took turns at the microphone after a clergyman performed the service. Large boards covered with photographs were propped next to Mason's yellow tow truck; roses placed on its bed last week were drying amid stuffed bears and fresh bouquets.

One close friend, Dealoris Harris, said she'd always remember a trip with Mason when he insisted on riding a Jet Ski back and forth across the water while wearing bell-bottoms.

Another friend laughed through tears, describing Mason as having "a bottle of Pepsi in one hand and a bottle of Everclear in the other."

But the most consistent message from mourners was gratitude for a man whose generosity will be remembered as bottomless.

"We went from friendship to family," said Jeff Maniaci, 54, who rented property from Mason. "He saved my dog's life once and I think he saved mine."

Maniaci's chihuahua, Famina, got sick after delivering puppies, he said. Mason drove Famina and Maniaci to the vet at 1 a.m. Mason then pulled money from his pocket to pay for Famina's treatment.

"No questions asked," Maniaci said. "Another half-hour and she would have been dead."

When a mourner expressed anger because Mason's killer has not been caught, Mason's widow, Janice, praised Modesto police.

"They have done so much for this case," she said. "They are on my side and I respect them."

Family and friends picked up Mason's ashes Tuesday. They were in a box at Wednesday's service, but will be scattered at a favorite dirt bike spot "up past Oakhurst," a friend said.

Mason's younger brother, Harold Mason, 50, made the trip from Bremerton, Wash., for the memorial.

"Buddy was raised to take care of people the way that he has," Mason told the crowd. "He lived the way he was raised."

Police are looking for Maurilio Vasquez, 23, of Modesto in connection with the shooting. Police have described Vasquez as a gang member; neither victim was involved with gangs.

Mason's death was the eighth homicide in Modesto this year. Police said at least three of them were gang-related.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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