Beneft to aid memorial scholarship fund at Valley High School
Family and friends of John “J.B.” Mason can only imagine all of the good things the New Kensington man would have done with his life since 2004, when he was murdered.
Instead, they do good in his memory by raising money for a memorial scholarship.
Matt Nee, a lifelong friend and classmate of Mason, has dedicated his annual St. Patrick’s Day party to raising money for the scholarship fund since 2005. This year’s event takes place at Six Penn Kitchen in downtown Pittsburgh during the city’s parade. At least 400 people are expected to attend.
Mason was 27 when he was killed.
“For somebody that age to die is shocking. We felt it was important to try to keep his memory alive,” Nee said. “It’s a great way to remember him and a great way for all of us to give back to our high school.”
The J.B. Mason Memorial Fund Scholarship has given a total of $5,000 to six Valley High School graduates since 2005. Two $500 scholarships were awarded in the first year, with one $1,000 scholarship in each year since.
Students have until mid-May to apply for this year’s award, which will be presented at the school’s awards ceremony before graduation.
Nee, 33, grew up in Arnold, graduated from Valley High School with Mason in 1995 and now lives in Dearborn, Mich., where he works as an account manager for U.S. Steel.
First meeting in kindergarten, Nee said he and Mason remained friends after high school, even though he went to Penn State and Mason went to Pitt, where he graduated with an accounting degree.
Mason was shot and killed at his Upper Burrell home on July 12, 2004.
Two years later, Kenneth L. Jones Jr. of Knoxville was sentenced to life in prison for his April 2006 conviction of second- and third-degree murder. Three accomplices also received lengthy prison terms.
Prosecutors said the four set out to rob Mason.
At Jones’ sentencing, Westmoreland County Judge Rita D. Hathaway said that “a young man with a promising future was taken from his family.”
Mason was a sports fan, had a dog and enjoyed riding motorcycles, said his older sister, Rae Mason, 38, of New Kensington. She said her brother’s death was uncalled for and “didn’t have to happen.”
“My brother was good guy. They don’t make guys like him anymore,” she said. “He was always looking out for others and always smiling — he had a beautiful smile. He was never in a bad mood. He was always caring.”
The scholarship is for Valley High School graduates who have at least a 3.25 grade point average and have done community service benefiting the New Kensington-Arnold area. They also have to write an essay on how growing up in the area has impacted their life and what effect it will have on their future.
“The idea behind that is getting the people who graduate from Valley to recognize that where they came from can make them a good person in society in general and in this larger world we live in,” Nee said.
Rae Mason said she loves what her brother’s friends have done in his memory.
“I think it’s an excellent thing my brother’s name is carried on for years and years to come, and that others are able to be helped through this,” she said. “My brother was a great guy and it shows his friends loved him and want the same thing for him, too.”
Who: Family and friends of John ‘J.B.’ Mason
What: J.B. Mason Memorial Benefit
When: 7 a.m. Saturday
Where: Six Penn Kitchen, 146 Sixth St., Pittsburgh
Cost: $30 donation at door