Students at both Castleton State College and the University of Vermont have been swallowed by sorrow this past week at the passing of classmate Mason Smith.
Smith, originally from Canaan, Vt., was boating on Lake Champlain with six others Sept. 20 when he dove into the water for a late night swim. The wind and waves separated him from the boat, and he disappeared before his friends could get to him.
“It’s unbelievable that he’s gone,” said former Castleton Student Andy Lezzer.
Lezzer lived in the same dorm as Smith freshmen year, and recalls how he “brightened my day, every day, in the simplest of ways.”
In a sense, Smith was just like any other college freshmen; video game marathons lasting late into the night and lazy spring afternoons spent tossing a Frisbee were a frequent part of his life. But his unique characteristics, everything from his mop of red hair to his ability to quote lyrics, set him apart, friends said.
Smith’s lighthearted sense of humor, outgoing personality and tremendous bear hugs made him magnetic; people loved to love him.
“His energy was uplifting,” remembers Castleton student Martin Jutres, who would occasionally skip class with Smith to bask in a fresh powder day at Killington. One fond memory was a an early grey morning spent on the slopes; a light dusting of flakes covering the ground, the two of them hitting the trails for first tracks. Smith was a natural on the slopes, friends said.
“He skied so fluidly, like a knife through soft butter,” said Jutres.
But skiing wasn’t the only skill that Jutres and others found so impressive about him.
“He could rap and freestyle like no one’s business,” laughed Jutres at the endless memories of Smith’s many YouTube videos and live performances.
“He would sit down in front of his computer or in front of a crowd, and the words would just flow from him. Words with humor, words with meaning. It was poetry.”
Smith, known as Pastor Mason to his fans, found comfort in his ability to express himself through rhythm and rhymes.
“He didn’t care what anyone said,” remembers close friend Meg Daly. “He just went with whatever made him happy, he was genuine.”
Daly aches at the loss of Smith, admitting that he’ll never be replaced.
“Our opinions weren’t always the same and sometimes he’d tell me I was being an idiot,” she said, smiling at the thought. “But then he would say ‘Yup on the real, bro,’ quote some rap song and have me laughing all over again.”
Laughter was something Smith always managed to wriggle out of people; the happiness of those important to him was a priority.
Cousin Lauren Smith, along with other family members, always referred to Mason by his middle name, Jake. Lauren remembers summers spent together at their family’s camp.
“I have never known anyone like him,” she recalled. “And even though I was the oldest cousin, Jake definitely made sure that all of us were always taken care of.”
Lauren Smith said that he hadn’t quite figured out what he wanted to do with his life, or which career he might pursue after graduating UVM with an English degree in 2012, but said she had faith that he would have “been amazing at anything.”
Even though Smith eventually transferred from Castleton to UVM, many CSC students will always remember him for his quick snap of humor, his vast collection of hats and his unfaltering love of life.
“He brought light and happiness to everyone who was lucky enough to have known him,” said Lezzer. “I regret not spending more time with him, but I feel grateful he was part of my life for a while.”