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The community owes him so much

Suffolk could never repay Howard Mast for the contributions he’s made to this city, and that’s fitting, because most of what he did, he did as a volunteer.

Easily hundreds, and probably thousands, of tennis players in Suffolk, and especially children, spanning three generations, became tennis players largely because of the singular efforts of Mast.

A good number of Mast’s students continued to collegiate, or even pro levels of the sport.

More than that, however, even those who ended up being able to take or leave a tennis racket, learned proper sportsmanship, courteous behavior, honesty, the importance of academics, hard work, and standing up for what’s right through Mast’s own values and literally unbelievable work ethic.

Forty-nine years ago, Mast single-handedly started the Suffolk Tennis Association, and for most of the STA’s existence, Mast single-handedly kept it running.

Seven months ago, Nansemond River High School was in need of boys’ tennis coach.

They called Mast to find out if there was someone he could recommend for the job.

He volunteered; it was his first time coaching a high school tennis team, and he did it at age 88.

The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be on TV a few times coming up during the holidays, but Suffolk had its own example of a gentleman who molded an incredible number of lives. He left us Thursday.