Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Wife at funeral: 'I knew every day that he would protect me'

Published:Monday | October 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM

BAKERSFIELD, California (AP):

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 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.

 

Tearful tributes

 

In family pictures and in tearful tributes, Beaton, 54, was remembered as a fun-loving friend, a hard-working roofer by trade, a generous and kind-hearted neighbour, 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 neighbour 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 colours.

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.