With files from Barry Conway
Barry’s Bay – They called him “Teacup” and anyone who passed through the doors of the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre got to know him.
Raymond Mask Jr. passed away on Sunday at the Pembroke Regional Hospital with his family by his side. He was 60.
The long-time facility manager of the community rink, he retired last year after nearly 37 years working there. A native of the community, he grew up on Mask Island and continued to live there on the farm.
Last year, when he was retiring as manager at the arena, he explained to Leader writer Barry Conway about his nickname.
“It’s a long story,” he said. “We used to milk the cows by hand, and my mother strained the milk with nylon stockings, but I would still get a foul taste in my mouth, so I just stuck to tea.”
Despite this, he loved the farm life. After graduation from Madawaska Valley District High School, he decided to stay on the farm and help his father. He remained on the farm, which was bought by his grandparents in 1917.
He began working at the town’s arena and when the new arena/community centre was built, he worked there, eventually becoming facility manager. This did not only mean hockey and figure skating, but weddings and ball fields in the summer, as well as tournaments. In the heigh day, there was Timberfest, monster bingos, big tent circuses, midways, rock concerts, western rodeos, and wrestling.
Long-time friend Tony Yantha said he was very saddened to hear of the loss of a great friend he has known all his life, adding he extended his sympathy to the family.
“He was the kind of guy you loved to sit with and talk because he was very funny,” he recalled.
Despite Mr. Mask having a lot of responsibility at the arena and the farm, he loved to chat with friends, he recalled.
“He would make time to have the conversation with you no matter how busy he was,” he said.
Mr. Yantha was involved in the original construction of the arena, serving as chair of the board. He said Teacup did a great job of managing the facility and keeping it in good shape.
“He was also a good leader and helped people who were working under him,” he said.
“I would go to hockey games and I could see he ran a good ship as they would say,” he added.
Mr. Yantha said Teacup will be missed in the community.
“We will all feel his absence as strongly as we felt his presence,” he said.
His passing at 60 is a great loss, he said.
“He had a lot of farm to run yet,” Mr. Yantha said.
Those who spent a lot of time at the rink remember Mr. Mask fondly.
“He was always the first one to help,” said Stephanie Plebon, the president of the Barry’s Bay and District Minor Hockey Association and a long-time member of the executive committee.
‘Without ever sitting on the executive Teacup was a huge part of the BBAMHA family,” she said. “His help through the years at the rink saved us many times. Barry’s Bay was well known for their superior ice and that was all thanks to Teacup.
“Every hockey player in this area grew up knowing ‘Teacup’ and are so saddened by his passing. He will be greatly missed.’
She recalled whenever there was a fundraiser event for minor hockey, he would buy a ticket. One year he won an Elmo toy at a minor hockey event.
“Then for years Elmo rode on the Zamboni,” she recalled.
Ms. Plebon said he was always willing to work with the hockey executive and help out.
“He had a personality too,” she said. “He was that arena.”
Breanne Kuiack and Stacie Pecarski, the former president and vice president of the Barry’s Bay and Area Skating Club, also remembered him fondly.
“Teacup was a man who had been working at the arena for years, even when some of our skating club’s executive members were a child skating in our programs,” they noted. “He was around as long as we can remember.
“Teacup’s voice was always a loud one and could be heard through the stands. Everyone knew his name,” they recalled. “When the club needed help, he would put down whatever he was doing to assist the club in the time of need. Teacup and his big smile and jokes will be missed dearly by all user groups at the arena.”
His obituary noted the pride he took in “maintaining the finest ice surface in the Valley – and he’d never let you forget that.”
Mr. Mask is survived by his sons, Scott Mask (Oliver Scherer) and Derek Mask (Miranda Voldock), and his partner, Chantal Brown. He is also survived by his siblings, Bonnie Mask, Patsy (David) Brown, Jim (Carola) Mask, Rachel (the late Charlie) McGuey, Paul Mask, and Michael Mask and many nieces and nephews.
Friends and family will be received at Heubner Funeral Home, Barry’s Bay, on Wednesday from 5-9 p.m. with Mass of Christian Burial on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Hedwig’s Roman Catholic Parish. Interment to follow.