Tadeusz “Ted” Mroz, who led a group of 15 Poles imprisoned and enslaved during World War II by Nazi Germany to safety and later founded Mroz Masonry in Toledo, died Monday in his Sylvania Township home. He was 89.
He died of natural causes, said his daughter Angela Davis.
Born June 24, 1924 in Ukraine, he was raised in Poland until age 13, when he was captured and imprisoned by the Nazis.
Later in the war, he dug trenches at a site where many prisoners weakened by the harsh conditions were shot. Before he reached that fate, he convinced 15 fellow prisoners to escape to a camp at a farm where he had been held earlier in the war. The group tricked Nazis they passed along the way by saying they were requested to work at the farm.
Ms. Davis said it took the prisoners about a week — and a train ride — to reach the farm. Early every spring, her father received thank-you cards from those he led to safety. Her father did not make a big deal of the escape.
“I just kind of noticed him getting them [postcards from Poland] every year,” she said. “And one year I asked him what the deal was with getting all these postcards when it’s not your birthday or anything like that. And then he just very casually said that story of what happened.”
The farm was also where he met his wife, Zofia.
They moved to Sylvania Township after the war. She died of cancer in 2000. Mr. Mroz dealt with his loneliness by joining Gold’s Gym, where he was the oldest member, his daughter said.
“He would come home and he’d say, ‘You know, I just don’t understand it. There’s all these guys walking around with water bottles. I’m out there sweating and working out and they’re walking out there with water bottles,’ ” Ms. Davis said.
After he moved to the Toledo area, he started Ted Mroz & Sons Masonry, renamed Mroz Masonry after he retired in his early 1970s.
Ms. Davis said her father loved to take discarded items and use them to construct things for her and her four siblings.
“He would take garbage from people and make things out of it,” she said. “He took an old push lawnmower and took old pieces of plywood and old tires, and when we were kids, he made us a Jeep. He painted the plywood green and we’d have to pull the rope to get it going.”
Mr. Mroz enjoyed dancing and was active in the Polish community. He often hosted festive parties and loved to sing and dress up in costumes for social gatherings.
“My dad just was always a good-natured person,” Ms. Davis said. “Even during the war, the Nazis liked him.”
Surviving are his sons, Adam, Art and Andrey; daughters, Ann Brown and Angela Davis; six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in Reeb Funeral Home, with services immediately following.
The family suggests tributes to any number of Mr. Mroz’s favorite causes, including the Boy Scouts and the Humane Society.
Contact Sam Gans at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6516.