Mother Remembers Son by Helping Others

Ryan Odelle Mance Foundation Provides Scholarships to Students

7/31/2013, noon
There are no words to describe the pain that a parent experiences when they lose a child – especially to ...
The late Ryan Mance, who was an aspiring musician, gazes upon the water from the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in 1999. Courtesy Photo

There are no words to describe the pain that a parent experiences when they lose a child – especially to a senseless crime.

A mother’s agony is the most unbearable of all. As she watches the coffin close – there’s a sense of finality – and grief that’s unimaginable.

Patricia Daniels, a Prince George’s County resident, experienced those feelings and more when she returned home one frigid November night in 1999, only to find her 21-year-old son’s lifeless body lying just inside the threshold of her front door.

“Every time I walked through that door, I re-lived finding my son. I went through my grief and I went through my pain,” she said.

After police arrived at Daniels’ home in Laurel, Md., they obtained DNA samples and later discovered a photo of a man who attempted to use her son, Ryan Mance’s bank card at a local ATM machine.

“No one was ever convicted for Ryan’s death. Police have told me what they think happened, that he brought someone home with him from a nightclub because he was such a social butterfly,” Daniels said.

“No one knows why the person killed him. The house was ransacked and the only thing of value the person took was Ryan’s beloved saxophone.”

That saxophone represents the official insignia of Daniels’ charitable organization, the Ryan Odelle Mance Memorial Scholarship Foundation, Inc., which began in 2008, intent on awarding scholarships to area African-American male students.

“I guess, I was like most parents in that I wanted my sons to have an appreciation of the arts, especially music,” Daniels said. “I think he wanted to please me. He chose the saxophone as his musical instrument and he came to love it.”

Her son performed in the Eisenhower Middle School and Laurel High School bands, both located in Laurel, Md. He earned first chair in Laurel High School’s band. Mance received numerous accolades, including several medals from the Maryland Band Director’s Association Ensemble. He particularly enjoyed the 1990 Spike Lee film, “Mo’ Better Blues,” which featured the music of jazz musicians Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis, who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophone. “Ryan really loved the music in that movie,” Daniels said.

Sadly, it wasn’t until after the aspiring saxophonist’s death that Daniels learned her son received a full four-year music scholarship to Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.

“Ryan loved people, he loved life, music and he loved blowing his saxophone,” Daniels recounted. “He had no idea that his brother, Roderick, would eventually design the logo and tag line of the saxophone player in a silhouette to help brand an organization that would be created in his memory,” she said.

During the search for Mance’s killer, Daniels, established a reward fund, offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

An anonymous donor contributed another $5,000 and, after nearly a decade, she closed the reward fund and began looking for other ways to honor her son’s memory.

That’s when she decided to start a scholarship fund.