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Kevin (Ken) Mastin

(Born at Leeds on 9th October 1926. Died at Chesterfield on 13th July 2010.)

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Ken Mastin
Ken Mastin. c. 1950.
Kevin Mastin (almost always called Ken throughout his life) was born in Leeds on 9th October 1926, youngest son of Frank Ernest Mastin and Lillian Mastin (née Jinkinson). His two sisters, Jessie and Edith, and his brother, Frank, were all several years older.

For some years, the family lived at Brigsley, near Grimsby, but, in 1939, he moved to The Tower at Chatsworth House to stay with his older sister, Jessie. During this time, he went to school in Baslow, quite a long walk each day. Not long after, the family moved to Northwood Lane, Darley Dale, right at the top of the steep hill, Ken attending school in Rowsley. He left school at 14, and spent a few years as a joinery and undertaking apprentice with Metham and Sons, first in Darley Dale, and then in Bakewell.

When he came of age, towards the end of the Second World War, he joined the army, serving with the Royal Engineers, largely as a truck and tank driver and sign painter. It was during his time serving in Italy that he first met his future wife and love of his life, Zaira, who was living in a poor rural village called Arcole, near Verona. Despite neither speaking the other's language, they fell deeply in love, and Ken took every opportunity to visit her (at least once in a tank, and even one time with a truck-load of prisoners in tow).

He vowed to return after the war to make Zaira his bride, and, after a few more years of army postings in Palestine, Egypt and Kenya, he did just that. They were married in January 1950, after some legal complications involving a letter from the Pope (Ken was not Catholic) and some significant language problems. The couple moved to England, where they lived at first with Ken's parents in Darley Dale, before moving to a tied house in the nearby village of Stanton-in-the-Peak.

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Zaira (Rosa) Mastin
Zaira (Rosa) Mastin. c. 1950.

Although they were happy to be in their own home at last, life in Stanton was hard. Winters were harsh, and there was no indoor plumbing or bathroom, indeed no water at all - it had to be collected from the village pump up the hill. Zaira, now usually known as Rosa, which the locals found easier to pronounce, was still learning English and only knew one other Italian in the whole area. After a short time, they moved to a smaller house just next door, also tied to the business of the local landowner, Humphrey Davy.

The work the house was tied to was a limestone quarry in Bakewell, where Ken worked for several years, walking the three-mile trek back and forth each day and putting in long hours with pick and hammer. In 1952, a daughter, Doreen, was born, and then, in 1955, a second daughter, Diana.

In 1958, the opportunity arose to move to a house at the end of a terrace on Buxton Road in Bakewell, much nearer to Ken's work and not tied to it. The old stone house, with its sizeable workshop, garage space and upper level garden, was to be their home for 43 years, and Ken spent many hours in renovating, improving and all but rebuilding the house. In time, Ken managed to buy the house. Soon after moving to Bakewell, a son, Lawrence was born, and Ken's family was complete. The family enjoyed long weekend walks in the Peak District around Bakewell, and annual seaside holidays in North Wales and the Lincolnshire and Norfolk coasts.

No longer tied to quarry work, Ken pursued a variety of jobs over the next years, including road tarmacking, long-distance lorry driving for Derbyshire Stone and ICI, smelting lead at Enthoven's in Darley Dale (a hot, dirty and dangerous job which he only took as a quick way to pay off the mortgage, and which threatened to undermine Ken's health) and garage mechanic with Dealy's in Bakewell. When Dealy sold the business to Graham Hill and it moved to Tansley, near Matlock, as GH Autos, Ken went with them and began to specialize in renovating and painting classic vehicles and buses, a job he truly enjoyed. Eventually, near to retirement age, Ken bought into the company as a partner, although, largely due to mismanagement of the company, he actually earned very little and lost most of his investment.

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Ken Mastin
Ken Mastin. 2010.

Ken was fit and healthy throughout most of life, but he suffered from hypertension and angina attacks in later years. In February 2001, he suffered a massive heart attack, although, contrary to expectations, he made a miraculous recovery. It was something of a wake-up call though, and, as soon as he was fit enough, he and Rosa decided to move from the big, high-maintenance old house. They bought a bungalow on Derby Road in Chesterfield, close to both Doreen and Diana, and nearer to hospital and other facilities.

There he lived out the rest of his retirement, pottering in the garden, making detailed wooden models of ships and wagons, drawing and doing embroidery. He continued doing minor repairs and renovations on the house well into his eighties, and he and Rosa continued to enjoy their caravan camping trips to quiet spots on the Lincolnshire coast. The garden and their bird tables remained an abiding interest, and Ken was always happier doing crosswords than watching television.

He died, suddenly and painlessly, from heart failure on the 13th July 2010, while working in his beloved garden. He was 83 years old. Ironically, had been enjoying one of his best and most illness-free years since his heart attack nine years earlier. He is buried in Boythorpe cemetery in Chesterfield.

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