A contingent of USS Mason (DDG 87) Sailors attended a funeral Jan. 9 in New York City to honor the last surviving crew member of USS Mason (DE 529).
Lorenzo Dufau, 94, passed away there Dec. 19. He was highlighted in the 2004 documentary film "Proud", the story of the all-African American crew of USS Mason (DE 529).
In the same spirit the crew achieved recognition, Dufau spent a lifetime working to end discrimination. He appeared several times aboard U.S. naval bases and ships to speak on the subject. Most recently, he spoke in 2012 aboard Mason in Norfolk as part of their Black History Month celebration.
"Words cannot really express my deepest feelings because I become emotional when I realize the role that I was picked to play in developing America," he said, while answering questions from the Mason crew in 2012. "This is America, a combination of all people, one nation under God."
In recognition of his lifetime of service, members of the current Mason attended and spoke during Dufau's funeral.
"Mr. Dufau continued to be an advocate for the Navy and the work that he and his shipmates did aboard USS Mason (DE-529) was nothing short of spectacular," said Mason Command Master Chief Ronald Shasky. "He felt it was important for the story of his ship and shipmates to be heard, a story of an all-African American crew taking a naval vessel into battle, serving with honor and distinction, all during a period where racial segregation was rampant in our community. He and his shipmates were trailblazers in the history of African Americans in service to their country.
"He was quoted as once saying, 'Sure the Tuskegee Airman get all the attention. They were pretty flyboys. But did they own and operate a Navy destroyer? I think not!'" Shasky said. "Speaking with his family and friends, it was quite evident that he was proud of his and his shipmates' service. The Navy is a better place because of him, his shipmates and DE-529."
Lt. Cmdr. John Lloyd Jr. led the DDG 87 delegation and spoke to the family, bringing greetings and condolences from Cmdr. Christopher Gilbertson, Mason's commanding officer, and from its crew. Lloyd punctuated his comments by stating, "I am heartbroken that I did not have the pleasure and honor of meeting such a humble man who was obviously loved by so many."
Dufau is survived by his daughter-in-law and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.