Mourn­ers pay tear­ful trib­ute to Ve­gas vic­tim

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Scott Smith

Jack Beaton felt equally com­fort­able grip­ping a pair of bar­be­cue tongs sur­rounded by friends or swing­ing his roofer’s ham­mer on a hot day at work. He died a hero shield­ing his wife from a gun­man in the na­tion’s dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern his­tory.

More than 800 peo­ple packed into a Cal­i­for­nia church on Satur­day for one of the first memo­rial ser­vices for the 58 peo­ple killed when gun­man Stephen Pad­dock opened fire from a Las Ve­gas casino ho­tel room nearly a week ago.

The ser­vice was held in Beaton’s home­town of Bak­ers­field, a com­mu­nity that was home to sev­eral vic­tims.

BAK­ERS­FIELD, Calif. — Jack Beaton felt equally com­fort­able grip­ping a pair of bar­be­cue tongs sur­rounded by friends or swing­ing his roofer’s ham­mer on a hot day at work. He died a hero shield­ing his wife from a gun­man in the na­tion’s dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern his­tory.

More than 800 peo­ple packed into a Cal­i­for­nia church on Satur­day for one of the first memo­rial ser­vices for the 58 peo­ple killed when gun­man Stephen Pad­dock opened fire from a Las Ve­gas casino ho­tel room nearly a week ago. The ser­vice was held in Beaton’s home­town of Bak­ers­field, a com­mu­nity that was home to sev­eral vic­tims.

In fam­ily pic­tures and in tear­ful tributes, Beaton, 54, was re­mem­bered as a fun-lov­ing friend, a hard­work­ing roofer by trade, a gen­er­ous and kind-hearted neigh­bor, and above all a de­voted hus­band and father. He took his wife, Laurie, to Las Ve­gas for the Route 91 Har­vest fes­ti­val to cel­e­brate their 23rd wed­ding an­niver­sary, and he died in her arms.

“He told me, ‘Get down, get down, get down!’” Laurie Beaton told The As­so­ci­ated Press ahead of the memo­rial ser­vice.

He put his body on top of hers for pro­tec­tion, she said.

“He told me, ‘I love you, Laurie,’ and his arms were around me and his body just went heavy on me,” she said.

Jeff Sallee, a next-door neigh­bor to the Beatons, said Jack was the kind of per­son who put oth­ers first. If you tried to thank him for his kind­ness, Sallee said, he would cut you off and say: “Well, that’s just what you do. Doesn’t every­one?”

In­side the church, the fam­ily dis­played pho­tos from the cou­ple’s wed­ding and fam­ily por­traits through­out the years. His foot­ball jer­sey from Kern Val­ley High School was laid out near a por­trait of him wear­ing it as a young man. There was a cof­fee mug that had “I Love Dad” painted on it in bright col­ors.

He leaves be­hind a 20-year-old son and 18-year-old daugh­ter.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, in Las Ve­gas on Satur­day, praised the heroic re­sponse by po­lice and oth­ers in the crowd, and he men­tioned that Beaton shielded his wife.

“In the depths of hor­ror we will al­ways find hope in the men and women who risk their lives,” Pence said.

Friends re­mem­bered Beaton’s easy smile, his love of camp­ing with fam­ily and friends, and his fond­ness for a cold beer and a shot of Maker’s Mark. He was gen­uine with no pre­tenses, a what-you-see-is-whatyou-get kind of guy, friends said.

The Beatons trav­eled to the mu­sic fes­ti­val with two other cou­ples, in­clud­ing Dario and Kim Catallo, close friends they of­ten took trips with. “He was the life of the party,” Dario Catallo said, adding that Jack made friends quickly.

Bak­ers­field is con­sid­ered the West Coast Nashville as the birth­place of the twangy “Bak­ers­field Sound” style of coun­try mu­sic. Other Bak­ers­field mu­sic lovers who died in Las Ve­gas were memo­ri­al­ized in other parts of the city.

Out­side the Bak­ers­field Speed­way, a makeshift memo­rial with flow­ers, can­dles and a poem was set up for the youngest vic­tim of the at­tack — 20-year-old Bai­ley Sch­weitzer, whose par­ents own the race­track.

Catallo de­scribed the com­plete chaos and “sheer ter­ror” he felt Sun­day when it be­came clear gun­fire was rak­ing the crowd.

“We right away got on top of our wives. We got down to­gether. The next rounds of bul­lets came. We sur­vived that. Un­for­tu­nately, Jack was struck,” he said. “There was so much go­ing on. You had mil­lisec­onds to make de­ci­sions. Do we stay? What do we do? Do we get up? We don’t know where the shooter was.”

Laurie Beaton knew her hus­band was dead when she told him she loved him and he didn’t re­spond.

“I screamed his name and he wasn’t an­swer­ing me. There was a lot of blood,” she said. A man who said he was a nurse and emer­gency re­spon­der ran up and told her to put her hus­band on his side. She heard Jack strug­gling to breathe. The shoot­ing hadn’t stopped, and some­one ad­vised them to run to safety.

“So we ran,” Laurie Beaton said. When they went back for Jack, they couldn’t find him. They called hos­pi­tals and even­tu­ally the coro­ner’s of­fice, which con­firmed her hus­band was among the dead.

“I knew every day that he would pro­tect me and take care of me and love me un­con­di­tion­ally, and what he did is no sur­prise to me,” she said. “He is my hero.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS] [SIL­VIA FLORES/THE

A photo of Jack Beaton on dis­play next to a bou­quet of flow­ers be­fore his memo­rial ser­vice at St. El­iz­a­beth Ann Se­ton Catholic Church on Satur­day in Bak­ers­field, Calif. Beaton was a vic­tim of the mass shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas on Oct. 1.

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