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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Victor E. Bast

Victor "Vic" E. Bast, 91, Oconto Falls, died Monday afternoon, Dec. 23 at his home, surrounded by his family. The only son of four children, he was born Sept. 17, 1922, near Gillett, to William and Ruth (Flick) Bast.

He grew up in the Oconto Falls area and graduated with the class of 1938. He earned a BS Degree in Education from UW-Oshkosh and later attended UW-Madison where he received a Master's Degree in Administration. He started teaching in a one-room school with 37 pupils in all 8 grades. He later moved to a two room school in Spruce where he taught grades 5 - 8.

When the Japanese attacked America at Pearl Harbor, it plunged the United States into World War II. He tried to enlist in the Army Air Corps but was sent home because there were no training bases for aviators. After waiting several months, he was called to report to Texas where they were building air bases as fast as possible. After about one year of training at many bases, he got his wings and was sent to England where he was assigned to the 56th Fighter Group as a fighter pilot in P-47 Thunderbolts, the fastest airplane in the world at the time.

His group had the record of more enemy planes destroyed than any group in the Army Air Corps. He came in with 16 replacements to cover pilots lost in the previous two weeks and only a few lived through to the end of the war. Because losses were so heavy, he quickly advanced to a leadership role and by the end of the war had flown 63 missions, destroyed four enemy planes and inflicted damage to 11 more in various air battles.

In recognition, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as the Air Medal seven times. When the war ended, he volunteered to go to Japan to be a Squadron Commander, but there was no transportation and the war ended by the time he got back home. Following his honorable discharge, he began teaching just three days after getting home and continued in education for 41 years, 25 as Principal.

On Dec. 31, 1942, he married Geraldine "Jerry" Bast, and together they had six children of whom attended St. Anthony Catholic School where he taught for 11 years. As a lifetime member of St. Anthony Church, he served as a trustee and school board member for 12 years.

A life member in the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and the Military Twenty-Year Club, Inc. of Marinette, he remained in the reserves following his discharge and after 24 years retired as a Lt. Col., serving in all offices including commander. He was also a life member of the Retired Teachers Association and other organizations.

Following retirement, he and his wife made many trips to visit their children. When Jerry became very sick, their traveling ended, so he could care for Jerry during the last three years of her life. In 2003, he married Agnes (Konitzer) Bridger and the couple had 10 good years together, spending their winters in Florida and summers in Oconto Falls.

Survivors are his wife, Agnes Bridger-Bast, Oconto Falls; five children, Ruth (Wayne) Zemke, Fullerton, Calif., Margaret "Maggie" (Joe) Jones, Iola, Vicki (Bill) Wendricks, Waynesboro, Miss., Gloria (Bob) Edwards, Green Bay,; Victor W. (Diane) Bast, San Ramon, Calif.; 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, one great-great-granddaughter; a sister, Delores Skarban, Milwaukee; many nieces and nephews; six children of Agnes: Dan (Mary) Bridger, Salt Lake City, Utah, Russ Bridger, Minneapolis, Minn., Charles (Lynn) Bridger, Milwaukee, Cindy (Dave) Boyd, Sarasota, Fla., Gene (Sherry) Bridger, Va., Karin (Jon) Bridger, Fla.; nine grandchildren and one great grandson.

Besides his parents and first wife, Jerry, he was also preceded in death by his son and 20-year Navy pilot, Cmdr. William Victor Bast; two sisters, Loretta Lemirande and Mercedes Thielke; two brothers-in-law, Carl Lemirande and Bob Skarban; and one son-in-law, Lee Shoemaker.

Visitation was held from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30 at Jones Funeral Service in Oconto Falls and continued at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Oconto Falls after 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31 until time of service. Mass of Christian Burial was at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the church with the Rev. Fr. Joel Sember officiating. Burial with military honors followed in the church cemetery.

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, memorials may be made to St. Anthony Catholic School or Unity Hospice of DePere.


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