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Edward Alan Mason

May 15, 2010|By MARLO BARNHART
  • Alan Mason poses for this picture taken when he was a young schoolboy in his native Roanoke, Va.
Submitted photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Edward Alan Mason, who died April 29 at the age of 50. His obituary was published in the May 2 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Still reeling from the death of her only remaining son on April 29, Frances Mason said she was thankful that Alan Mason -- a well-known music teacher and performer in the Hagerstown area -- had just been home for a 13-day visit in Roanoke, Va.

"We think about him often," Frances said May 10 by telephone. She added that she and her husband, Malcolm, probably wouldn't be able to attend a last-minute memorial service for Alan planned for May 13 in Hagerstown.

But as it turned out, both Frances and Malcolm were driven to Hagerstown by a nephew. Others who attended the event at Trinity Lutheran Church agreed that Alan's parents were glad they came.

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"We wanted them to see how many people loved him," said longtime friend and fellow musician Pete Lancaster, who estimated that more than 150 people attended the service.

Another attendee, Herald-Mail columnist Kate Coleman, said she was approached by Alan's mother, who asked if she knew him.

"I told her I did and that I had written about him and his band, 2 Blue, and others," Coleman said.

One speaker at the memorial service described music as Alan's way of worshipping, Coleman said.

"Alan's mom had a look of awe ... she didn't know her son was so loved," Coleman said.

Malcolm said his son was 6 or 7 years old when he took up the piano and guitar. While in school, Alan also played violin.

"He was best at piano and once had a recital at our church," Malcolm said. But Alan's father admitted that his son loved the guitar the most.

Frances agreed, noting that her son studied 17 years on the piano until he discovered the guitar.

"He was wrapped up in his music and taught both piano and guitar," she said.

After he graduated from high school in Roanoke, Alan headed north to study music at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Va.

Former spouse Cindy Herndon said she first met Alan in the 1980s when he was playing in a band called Cracked Actor that she had gone to hear.

"I remembered him ... he had a certain look," Cindy said.

Cindy said she and Alan lived together from 1987 to 1994, when they were married in Jamaica.

Though they ended their marriage in 2006, Cindy said she and Alan still were friends and last had seen each other earlier in April. The friendship and her admiration for his musical prowess never wavered.

"When Alan taught children, he brought music to life for them," Cindy said. "It was genius."

In addition to teaching music performance, Alan recorded a CD titled "Ethereal Gifts" and music for documentaries, taught music theory, played for weddings and even tuned pianos on occasion.

"His career was so tragically cut short," Cindy said. "There was so much music diversity and personality there -- it's been hard to lose him twice."

Pete said he first met Alan when he was living on Fry Avenue and learned that a "long-haired" musician was moving in next door.

"Alan and his dad moved his piano from Roanoke to Hagerstown in a pickup truck," Pete recalled.

For many years, Alan went from band to band performing at all kinds of venues.

"Nobody could touch Alan in music," Pete said.

In the early 2000s, Alan and other local musicians even organized a rock 'n' roll camp for young people over several summers to mentor the next generation.

At the May 13 celebration of Alan's life, Pete and others played in between comments from the many friends and students who spoke about Alan's contribution to their lives.

"Alan was like a brother to me," Pete said as he looked back over the high points of the last 15 years of their musical odyssey. "He was a sweetheart of a guy."

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