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‘Watauga Democratic Party Hall of Fame’ Member Dies at 84; Funeral Service Saturday in Valle Crucis

By Greg Hince

Leo Mast, courtesy of wataugadems.com

July, 24 2012. The life of Everett Leo Mast, Sugar Grove native and member of the Watauga County Democratic Party Hall of Fame, will be celebrated with music and stories at a memorial service in Valle Crucis this Saturday, July 28. The service will begin around 11 a.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 678 Herb Thomas Road, off Mast Gap Road, and will be followed by a reception at the old Cove Creek High School building, 207 Dale Adams Road, in Sugar Grove, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Mast, 84, of William Hardy Mast Road, Sugar Grove, passed away Sunday July 15. He was born February 8, 1928, in Sugar Grove, the third of five children, to the late Dora Shell and Vardry B. Mast.

The reception will feature a performance from the Todd Wright Jazz Quartet. Wright is a Jazz professor at Appalachian State University. Mast fell in love with Jazz music as a child growing up in Sugar Grove and was an accomplished clarinetist who practiced diligently from the time he took up the instrument in the 7th grade. Mast was a member of the Cove Creek High School band, and his love for his town and school intensified as he aged and moved.

Leo Mast reportedly never missed a single day of school as a child and was never late, even after a 4 a.m. job every day delivering the Asheville Citizen-Times to the neighborhood. He was a member of the Cove Creek High School’s first graduating class in 1945, and after graduating joined the Army in 1946, becoming a paratrooper. Mast later entered Appalachian Teachers College in 1948, and after graduating entered Duke Law School in 1954, where he was a member of Phi Alpha Delta fraternity.

Leo Mast descended from a long line of Mast postmasters in the Sugar Grove Post Office. His great-great grandfather John Mast established the Post Office in 1837. He also worked for many years in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the early 90s, Mast moved back to Sugar Grove and became involved in historic preservation of the area and worked closely with the Democratic Party. He was a driving force behind the formation of the Cove Creek Community Council, which worked to preserve the Cove Creek School building from destruction.

Thanks in part to Leo’s efforts, the old Cove Creek School is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The school is home to the Doc & Merle Watson Museum, the Sugar Grove Developmental Day School, and The Jung Tao School and Clinic of Chinese Medicine.

Leo Mast is survived by his wife, Anne Burgess, his daughter Barbara James and her husband, Scott, of Rock Hill, S.C.; daughter Lara Mast of Phoenix, Ariz., and former son-in-law Frederic Milot of East Point, Ga. Mast is also survived by his brother Ben Mast and wife, Ingrid, of Washington, DC; three grandchildren, Lauren, Michael, and William James, and by his former wife, Shirley Swift Mast.

Leo Mast had a long list of relatives and lifetime friends. He was preceded in death by his brothers Harold and John and his sister Dorothy Mast Harrigan.

Raised in Sugar Grove, Mast fell in love with jazz and took up the clarinet as an adolescent. In 1946, as an 18 year-old, he became a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 11th Airborne Division and served in Hokkaido in northern occupied Japan. He later taught in North Carolina and Florida public schools, and then was an attorney with the Florida Securities Commission in Miami, and later a attorney with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., where he was involved with regulation, discovery and enforcement.

Mast was constantly active in his church and the community theater in every community he lived in.

Leo Mast was honored in 2011 as one of the first inductees in the Watauga County Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame. In an official statement, the party said, “As public servant, teacher, community leader, musician, husband, father, and grandfather, Leo will always be remembered for his devotion, humanity and love of life.”

Pamela Williamson, representative of the Watauga County Democratic Party and Watauga County Young Democrats, said, “Leo Mast was one of the very best Democrats that ever lived, not to mention an outstanding human being. He will be sorely missed,” in a post on the party’s Facebook page.

For the reception Saturday, parking at the school and carpooling to the church is highly encouraged.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to any of the following: High Country Hospice, 136 Furman Dr., Suite 4, Boone, NC 28607; Holy Cross Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 645, Valle Crucis, NC 28691; Cove Creek Preservation & Development, P.O. Box 344, Sugar Grove, NC 28679; or The Community Care Clinic, 141 Health Center Dr., Suite B, Boone, NC 28607.

The public is encouraged to attend the reception for Leo Mast at the old Cove Creek High School, and the music should start shortly after 1 p.m.

In addition, online condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.austinandbarnesfuneralhome.com. Austin & Barnes Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the Mast family.