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Published: Tuesday, 4/5/2005

Prisoner of war, club musician was Scott High grad

Bernard Owen Mast, who was a German prisoner of war during World War II and later played the piano in area clubs, died Saturday in his West Toledo home. He was 81.

He had a weak heart, his son Bernard said.

An army private, he was captured by German soldiers in Italy in February, 1944. He was held in a POW camp in Germany for 14 months.

Mr. Mast did not begin to speak about his experiences until he was in his 70s, his son said. He said his father was part of a generation who did what they had to do and didn't think of themselves as heroes.

"They were willing to give of themselves and not ask for any credit," he said.

Mr. Mast was captured after his infantry platoon was surrounded. Three men in his squad were left alive, his son said.

He and another captive once attempted to escape by crawling along a drainage ditch and overpowering a guard. Eventually, a farmer saw them and called the German army, and they were taken back to the camp.

In the camp, the prisoners were put to work repairing airfields.

"Every once in a while, the Americans would come strafe or bomb it, and then they'd send the POWs back to start repairing it again," his son said.

After the camp was liberated by American soldiers in 1945, he was sent to France and was preparing to go to Florida to train to fight in the Pacific theater when the war ended.

Mr. Mast was an accomplished musician who performed a variety of styles and instruments since childhood. He played piano in clubs and for weddings on the weekends until he was in his 50s, his son said.

In the 1960s, he played piano with trumpeter Reed Baker and others at Brother Baker's tavern in Maumee. The group took requests for Dixieland sing-alongs.

"They knew every song in the world," his son said.

He also had played French horn with the Toledo Symphony and sung baritone in the chorus with the Metropolitan Opera in Cleveland.

As a child, he played guitar and sang on a local radio program almost 90 times, beginning in the early 1930s.

His favorite music to listen to was Artie Shaw's band, his son said.

Mr. Mast was born April 12, 1923, in the outskirts of Topeka, Ind., and moved to Toledo with his family in the 1920s.

He graduated from Scott High School and was drafted into the army, serving in Africa and in Italy. Mr. Mast fought in the battles of Monte Cassino and Anzio.

After the war, he worked for Dana Corp. and went to night school at the University of Toledo. He later worked for Mather Corp., retiring as a quality control inspector in the mid-1980s.

Surviving are his wife of 58 years, Dorothy, and sons, Bernard W. and Scott C. Mast.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. today at Toledo Memorial Park. Walker Funeral home handled the arrangements. The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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