Mason Cox left a chicken-scratched list of New Year’s resolutions upon the center console of his Toyota 4Runner.
“I’m going to land a job.”
“Help my friends make better choices.”
“Find a girl that will better me.”
“Be more self-reliant.”
Life, it seemed, was all laid out for the 20-year-old Dawsonville man. Except he disappeared Jan. 2. Eight days later, Cox’s body, along with that of best friend David Wood, was pulled from the cold water of Lake Lanier just 30 feet from the shore.
A memorial service was scheduled Sunday at the North Georgia Church in Dawsonville to honor the too-short lives of the young men just beginning to figure who they were and where they were going. Their mothers also spoke Sunday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of their own love and laments, their sorrows and suspicions of what truly befell Mason and David.
“I’m a very proud mom with a son who was looking toward a great future,” said Lea Anne Cox, who discovered her son’s list of resolutions. “In our last conversation, he told me had a birthday present for me. But he was going to wait to tell me on my birthday.”
Lea Anne turned 50 last Monday. By then, Mason and David, friends from Dawson County High School who lived in the smallish Frederick’s Cove subdivision with the lake as their backyard, were gone.
“David was like any 20-year-old fresh out of high school, full of life who thought he had a big S on his chest and was totally invincible,” said mother Ethelyn Geiger. “He immediately made friends with anybody he came in contact with.”
David was a scrappy, 130-pounder who captained the high school wrestling team and made the state championships. A natural leader, his mom said, “the one doing a lot of the talking and thinking about ideas and doing things – sometimes good things, sometime bad things.”
Early last year, when a friend of his sister’s was hurt badly in a four-wheeler accident, David rushed to her side, cradled her in his arms and promised over and over again that she would be all right. (Eventually, she would be.)
David and his then-girlfriend had a son, Carter, now 20 months old, who exclaimed “Dada” each time his father’s face appeared on the TV screen this past week.
“Carter is his legacy. Now I know God had a plan,” Geiger said. “They had such a sweet bond, but now his dad won’t be here to watch him grow up. Carter has the best nature and he got a lot of that from his dad. He’s just a sweet little boy.”
David was set to begin drafting and design classes at ITT Tech in Duluth last week. He wanted to own a company, maybe in the construction industry where his deceased father had worked.
Mason Cox wanted to be a firefighter. The schoolboy wrestler and football player moved to Navarre, Fla., after high school to be with his mother. Mason missed his friends, though, and returned to Georgia to live first with his grandmother and then with his father on the lake. He worked odd jobs at a golf course and a sports store before firefighting beckoned. Mason was set to begin paramedic training last week at Lanier Tech.
Mason, who talked frequently with his mother, didn’t call her back on New Year’s Day. Lea Anne Cox then received a slew of anxious calls from friends and family worried about a Facebook post of Mason’s.
“That’s when my heart jumped into my throat,” Cox recalled. “He said he was not afraid of death, but just curious of what’s on the other side.”
Cox and a girlfriend drove through the night to Dawsonville. The wait began. Fears and frustrations mounted.
Mason and David had apparently decided to do some early-morning fishing. They’d had a few beers, said Geiger, possibly the last person to see them alive, but were talking and walking without difficulty, she said.
Hall County rescue divers located one body around 5:30 p.m. Friday. The other body was found nearby 15 minutes later. Both wore warm clothes, investigators said, and no signs of trauma were reported. Geiger believes one of the boys fell into the water and the other – doing what a good friend instinctively does – tried to rescue him.
Cox doesn’t buy that story.
“Mason is a major swimmer. He is very strong and would swim the ocean like crazy,” she said. “My gut feeling is he didn’t just fall into the lake and drown. I’ve got a lot of valid questions right now, but, through the GBI, I haven’t gotten any answers.”
A spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the autopsies, couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.
Mason died last week, but he had been saved – by accepting Jesus Christ as his personal savior – a short while ago, his mother said. That was the birthday present Mason had promised to give her.
“There is some solace in my heart now, but there’s still anger and an empty spot about what happened that night,” Cox said.