Dion Green loved his father, Derrick Fudge. The Ohio men spent time together every chance they got — up until Fudge’s final moments, when he died in his son’s arms in last weekend’s mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.
“We’d fish. We’d play cards. We’d barbecue,” recounts Green, 37, who was the only child of the 57-year-old Fudge.
Hours before Fudge was killed, Green called him and asked if he wanted to go out for the evening with him, his sister and her husband for the sister’s birthday.
“We went out and enjoyed a night,” says Green. The group was in a bar in Dayton’s bustling Oregon District, and when it came time to leave, Green and Fudge stepped outside to wait for Green’s sister, who is not related to Fudge.
That’s when shots rang out, and Green found both himself and his dad on the ground.
“The bullets stopped. I tried to get up. I did get up. My dad, he didn’t,” recounts Green.
Moments later, Green looked at his dad, who had been struck with gunfire: “I saw him breathe real light, like a fish when you take it out of the water.”
“He just looked at me And I looked at him. In my arms,” Green says. “I told him I love him. Man, he was a great father. Everybody who knows him, they can’t say anything bad about him.”
Fudge was one of nine people killed in the massacre, which also injured 27.
The shooter, 24-year-old Connor Betts, was fatally shot by police about 30 seconds after he started shooting. His motive is unknown.
Green is mourning Fudge’s death along with the rest of his family, who describe him as an avid fisherman who was intensely dedicated to his family and his dog, Lucy Lou.
Sister Sherrie Fudge-Galloway also described him as a “survivor,” and said that as a boy, he had been hit by a train and lost his toes, and was not expected to walk again.
“He didn’t accept that,” Fudge-Galloway says. “He fought until he was able to push the wheelchair away, push the crutches away. Beyond all the doctors’ expectations he made it, he persevered.”
“He was awesome,” adds Fudge-Galloway. “He was a kind, giving man.”
For a living, he had once cooked and painted houses, his sister Twyla Southall tells PEOPLE. Days before his death, Fudge was excited to paint his granddaughter’s bedroom.
“He just really liked to cook and paint,” says Southall, who adds that her brother had had some problems in the past but was “on the upswing” in life.
“He was a good guy. He loved his family,” she says. “And he was happy and content with what he had and where he was, and just enjoying his life.”