Chester John (Chet) Dumask
American Legion Post 480 Oldest Continuous Charter Member
- Seaman 1st Class
- World War II
Seaman 1st Class Dumask was 17 years old when he enlisted in the US Navy, called up at age 18 and was stationed at Naval Station Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA toward the end of World War II. He along with seven other Presque Isle men decided to “enlist for the duration of the war”, an agreement with the war department that they would have no further military obligations following the war. Following his discharge, he hitchhiked from San Francisco to Chicago on all known conveyances, including a hay rack. Chet stayed with the USN Reserve until July 2, 1962.
Chet was a lifelong resident of Presque Isle, Wisconsin, a well-known storyteller, and keen observer of man and beast. Owner of Chet’s Hardware for many years, he retired to continue his love for the outdoors and to hunt and trap. One of his many stories tells of when he purchased a “lucky bag” on the naval base. The bags contained items left behind by sailors from their deployments. Chet’s bag contained a Japanese paper money bill. He was very surprised to see his brother Lambert’s name autographed on the bill, along with the date when he served with the Pacific Fleet. He keeps the bill in his collection.
Trapper Chet, as he was known, was born April 18, 1927 to the late Raymond and Modesta “Manda” (Polezynska) Damask in Plover, Wisconsin. Our last name was changed to Dumask after confusion with mail delivery as others changed to Domask while some kept Damask. After completing middle school at the Winegar School of Education in 1941, he also attended Winegar Junior High and later graduated from Marenisco High School, Marenisco, Michigan in 1947. During his school days Dad was a well known basketball player renowned for his hanging jump shot. He then enlisted in the United States Navy as a signalman for the duration of the war (WWII). Chet was a proud veteran of our great nation and was the last surviving charter member of the Winegar American Legion Post 480 in Presque Isle, serving nearly 80 years.
After hitchhiking home from San Francisco when the war ended, Dad worked as a carpenter and a minnow catcher selling locally and to Hilger’s Bait. With his earnings as a single man working many jobs, he treated himself to a Model A Coupe with a rumble seat. Also after the Navy, he raced stock cars and snowmobiles in Michigan, becoming a crowd favorite, entertaining fans with his success and signing autographs. Chet also worked as a sawyer/logger and never missed an opportunity to leave the woods to catch brook trout during a thunderstorm. He also won numerous chain saw cutting competitions at the Fireman’s Picnic in Presque Isle. On October 10, 1959,
Chet married Arlyce Rae Winters, and together they raised three sons while running their business, Chet’s Hardware and Sports Center in Presque Isle, for many years. During his business years, Chet visited Alaska and test drove snowmobiles for Yamaha and attended many Evinrude outboard sessions helping to provide for their companies’ success. Yamaha wanted Dad to continue testing their product in Australia, but he turned them down saying “I want to go trap minnows instead”. Chet worked late hours in the repair shop and could fix just about anything. After selling the store, Chet continued trapping minnows, fur and crayfish to provide for his family, and was a devoted outdoorsman enjoying fishing, hunting, gardening and making maple syrup. He always provided many varieties of wild game for cookouts and feeds and enjoyed taking his vegetables and produce to share with others at the legionpost. He loved supporting and representing his community by playing a key role in the 4th of July fireworks, creating imaginative floats for the parades and selling maple syrup at his stand during the country fair. Chet also co-donated the building that currently houses the Presque Isle Heritage Museum Cottage in honor of his Mother, Manda.
He was well known and respected throughout the community, and his tough, strong work ethic shone through to those around him. Chet worked very hard to support his family in an effort to provide a legacy for his sons. He was a great friend to many and his smile and charm will be greatly missed for those who experienced it. He lived a very big, adventurous life; growing from a poor young boy working extremely hard in many adverse or dangerous conditions to a successful businessman and outdoor enthusiast with unequaled knowledge of the outdoors. He lived a bigger life than any of us could imagine and always had an amazing story to share; Chet and his stories will be greatly missed.
Chet died on July 9, 2023 and is interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Presque Isle, Wisconsin
See Brother: Dumask, Lambert Raymond