Long before there were metal detectors at the Moss Justice Center - the criminal courts for York County, where the most heinous crimes are tried - one of the barriers for anybody with bad intentions went by the nickname of "Mase."
Thomas Mason "Mase" Caveny stood about 6 foot 3 but looked to be the size of a statue. His shoulders seemed wide as a barn door. His huge hand that shook like a vice-grip was the size of a first-baseman's mitt. His smile stretched a whole face - unless it didn't.
A lady one time about a dozen years ago walked into the courthouse past the sign that said "No cellphones!" As she was checked by Caveny, a ringing came from the lady's purse. Caveny's smile turned from joy to a smile that caused backbones to bend.
"Unless you have an oven in that purse - and that cake is done baking because the timer went off - this is your chance to take that phone to the car," said a smiling Mase Caveny. "That's your warning."
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Then he held the door for the lady.
Mase Caveny, a couple years after retiring from the courthouse, died Monday. He was 85.
Just inside the courthouse front doors, Mase stood - and sometimes sat - for about 18 years. A sentry, a bailiff among a few bailiffs, all of whom checked everybody who came in.
Tens of thousands of people passed by Mase going to trials and hearings. Every nervous witness, every upset relative of a victim, every crying defendant's momma or sister.
Mase smiled at them all. He would hold doors for ladies and offer a sweeping bow for a laugh. He would chuckle and give directions. He was a gentleman, unless someone acted up and needed a stern warning - or handcuffs.
Nobody had to be asked twice by Mase Caveny to take off a hat in his courthouse. The first request was always enough.
Mase was not an elected official, not a big shot - but he was a big man at that busy courthouse. Many people who came in, the visit's tone was likely set by Mase. If a person entered surly, Mase lay down the law. If a person came in with a smile, Mase returned it and more.
"Mase was a great man, as reliable as they come," said Bidwell Ivey, another longtime bailiff who retired from the courthouse a few years ago. "We worked together there for years. He treated people like gold."
Mase was for all those years working alongside a legendary group of bailiff characters, including Ivey, a former Rock Hill city councilman; current chief bailiff Charles Dunlap, a former deputy sheriff; and the late Ed Dunn, a retired grocer.
Dunlap, a co-worker for so many years, said Mr. Caveny never forgot that a bailiff's job is public service. Few public officials have as much contact with people as bailiffs - and even fewer have to deal with such strained emotions of victims, relatives, witnesses and jurors.
"Mr. Caveny was a fine man to work with," said Dunlap, "and he treated the public so nice."
York County's resident judges the past two decades, Lee S. Alford and John C. Hayes III, both knew Mase Caveny and the other bailiffs as vital to helping protect the courthouse staff and people inside the building.
But it was Mase the man - the World War II Navy veteran, the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing textile worker, the son of a sharecropper and one of 14 children whose bailiff job came after a lifetime of work - that the judges were so fond of.
"He was a good man, a good friend, a genuine man," Judge Hayes said Wednesday after learning of Mase's death. "His smile was contagious. He smiled because he was truly happy to see you and shake your hand.
"As fleeting as these encounters usually were in this busy world, I always felt good after being with him even for a short time. He was always so happy and so glad to see you. He shared his happiness with all in his presence."
Judge Alford also was effusive in praising his longtime friend.
"He always had a friendly smile on his face and always had a friendly greeting when you saw him. He did a great job in his role as a bailiff in the courts and he will be missed by all of us."