- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2002

Friends and family gathered yesterday at the First Baptist Church in Gaithersburg to celebrate the life and mourn the death of James "Sonny" Buchanan, the second of seven known victims killed by the serial sniper who has terrorized residents of the Washington area for the past 10 days.

Mr. Buchanan, 39, was shot once in the chest and killed at 7:41 a.m. Oct. 3 while mowing grass behind the Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Rockville Pike near White Flint Mall.

"It has been our sad lot to be affected by the senseless tragedy that has affected our county," the Rev. Charles Updike, pastor of First Baptist Church, told the crowd of some 800 people.

"And we are aware even as we meet that this senseless violence is continuing," he said, referring to the fatal shooting less than two hours earlier in Massaponax, Va. The apparent 10th sniper victim was filling his car at a gas station when he was shot and killed at 9:30 a.m.

Those assembled at Mr. Buchanan's funeral sang hymns and gave eloquent and emotional eulogies, and the family received condolences from U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

The Bible verse on the funeral program from Psalm 34:18 read, "The Lord is closest to those who are broken hearted."

The grief of the mourners was palpable, but as they remembered Mr. Buchanan aloud the mood lifted. He was remembered as a man whose smile and generosity were limitless and who made the lives of those he met a little bit brighter. Mr. Buchanan had been active in the Montgomery County Boys and Girls Club and on the board of the Montgomery County CrimeSolvers

His friends described him as an extraordinary man of unique joy, energy, generosity and love. They paid tribute to him for his love of life, his love for family, his incredible work ethic, and most of all, his greatest ambition, which was to help others, especially young people.

"I realized how big Sonny's heart was and how big an impact he's had on me," said Stephanie Lykins, his girlfriend. She recalled a time when he stopped at an intersection after seeing someone asking for money.

"Sonny would never have just sat there and then driven away. Sonny would roll down the window and give him some money," she said.

George Jones, a senior at Frostburg State University, shared how Mr. Buchanan had befriended him when he was a youngster new to area and uncertain of himself. Mr. Jones read part of a poem he wrote about Mr. Buchanan: "Joyous tears I sing, because he took me under his wing; the best friend I ever had, always smiling, never sad. Lord, please help us, this world is going mad."

Mr. Buchanan graduated from Gaithersburg High School in 1981 and earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Maryland. He developed a landscaping business, True Colors Landscaping, and about a year ago moved to Abingdon, Va., where his father runs a tree farm.

Many of those who knew Mr. Buchanan on a professional basis said their relationship with him had become close because of his hearty personality.

"Nothing was too small, too dirty, too big, or too complex for Sonny," said Tony Warner, who employed Mr. Buchanan, adding that he had become like family to him.

"He was always there for us, anxious to help."

A nonprofit foundation has been set up in Mr. Buchanan's name to provide scholarships and educational funds to those in need. Donations may be sent to Sonny's Kids, P.O. Box 10666, Rockville, Md. 20849. Information also may be found on the Internet at www.sonnyskids.org.

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