LORAIN — As the funeral of 20-year-old shooting victim Zachary Mason was held Thursday morning, the church and his family wanted to ensure his death would not be remembered only as the end of a young man’s life. They also wanted to make it the beginning of something amazing.
The Rev. Charles Howard, who gave the sermon at God’s Kingdom Church on 1671 North Ridge Road, invited military recruiters, employers and educators to the funeral to provide opportunities for attendees to improve themselves and their community.
Dura-Line, a pipe supplier in Elyria, offered people jobs if they passed a drug test, which six people accepted. Howard said some people filled out a sign-in sheet to get help from educators to finish their education.
He equated the need to help them to Mark 8:3 in the Bible, where Jesus insisted he and his disciples feed a large crowd in the wilderness who came to listen to his sermon for three days. In the end, Jesus performed a miracle to feed a crowd of about 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
“It’s not enough just to be preaching to these people; we’ve got to have something for them when they leave,” Howard said. “The Bible says if we send them away now, they’ll faint.”
The focus in the black community needs to change from police brutality to black-on-black violence, he said. Although ending police brutality is important, Howard said, the focus needs to shift to improving the communities.
Mason was at the Southwyck Apartments about 6 p.m. Oct. 1 when he was shot on a second-floor landing, according to Elyria police. He managed to get outside before collapsing, and was taken to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where he died, police said. Since then, two men have been arrested and a police are seeking a third suspect in connection with his death.
Howard has been especially saddened by Mason’s death, because his own son, Charles “Chuckie” Howard Jr., was fatally shot in Elyria in August 2009. Since that time, he said, he’s presided over dozens of funerals of young men and women who lost their lives to violence.
Mason’s brother, Chase Mason, 29, of Elyria, said he and his family were happy to use Mason’s funeral as a way to encourage others to improve their community. With this, Chase said, maybe his brother can be one of the last young casualties from gun violence in their community.
“Everyone I talked to after this was positive and uplifting,” he said. “We need more of this around here. There’s too much stuff like (violence) going on.”
Chase reminisced about his brother and the kind of person he was and will always be remembered as.
“My brother was a great person and always smiling, I never seen anyone get him mad, he was leveled,” he said. “There were times he even gave me advice.”
It will always be hard to move forward, Chase said, but they have to move forward in a positive way and honor his memory.
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