MIAMI — When most of Miami was still swamp in the early 1920s, Donald Mason’s great-grandfather built the family’s two-story, four-bedroom wooden house along Northwest 15th Avenue not far from the Miami River.
The house has stood through hurricanes, a drastic change in demographics in what is now Little Havana, and most recently, the silver monstrosity of a new Florida Marlins stadium erected where once the Orange Bowl stood.
And yet Mason remained, the sole sibling left living in the house, lovingly patching up the old walls and cloth-covered wiring —until Saturday, when he tumbled from a chair while battling a swarm of angry bees in an upstairs bedroom.
Mason, 49, an electrician, hit his head and died from the freak fall, his brothers said Sunday. An autopsy will determine the exact cause of death.
“His heart was there, but the effort was too much for him, especially on a limited budget,” said brother Tim Mason, 50. “But he loved this home.”
Donald Mason’s teenage daughter discovered her father’s body, covered in bees, on Saturday evening.
Mason had apparently tried to fog spray the hive in the wall, while trying to patch up a hole in the wall with tape.
“When police officers arrived, they could hear a humming noise, like the walls were alive,” said Miami police Cmdr. Delrish Moss, a spokesman. “Although we are awaiting the autopsy, and right now the death is considered unclassified, the fall likely had more to do with his death than anything to do with the bees.”
Nevertheless, paramedics could not attend to his body until a bee control expert was called in to remove the insects. He told reporters that he estimated some 60,000 bees.
The dilapidated structure, at 129 NW 15th Ave., was built by Rufus Mason about 90 years ago.
His son was Glen Mason Sr. His son, Glen Mason Jr., had six children — including Donald Mason.
Mason, who graduated from Miami High, and his sibling grew up playing in the yard of the 1,255-square foot home. Back then, the neighborhood was mostly Anglo, including many Canadians. By the early-1960s, the neighborhood became mostly Cuban.
Over a decade ago, Glen Mason Jr. died and Donald Mason assumed the house. An electrician, Mason worked off-and-on construction jobs, most recently hoping to land a gig helping wire the new stadium, which stands just a few blocks north.
“The house is a little run down but he really tried to keep up with it the best he could,” said younger brother Ken Mason, 42.