By CRAIG GIFFORD

Daily Record Staff Writer

BERLIN — Ben Mast has had to work very hard to accomplish all that he has.

The owner of the Holmes County Amish Flea Market in Walnut Creek, Mast lost his right arm to a farming accident in 1967. From then on, Mast has had to work a little harder, but can be proud of what he’s done.

“That changed the ways of my thinking,” he said of the accident. “Everything I do, I have to work a little harder. I’m always a very positive person. If any of my employees comes in with a negative attitude, I try to encourage them to be positive. Life could be a lot tougher.”

It’s that attitude that has driven Mast to be the main sponsor of the annual Classic in the Country, the girls basketball showcase in Berlin.

The Classic, annually held Saturday-Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, is in its fourth year. Mast and the Amish Flea Market have been the key sponsor each year.

“I’m a huge high school basketball fan,” Mast said. “I see the program (Hiland girls coach) Dave Schlabach has put together, my daughter (Julie) came up through the program. When you leave that program, you’re not only a good basketball player, you’re ready for the rest of your life.”

Not only does Mast have an appreciation for Hiland girls basketball, but for all girls basketball players, in general.

“I really enjoy girls basketball,” he said. “Why? It’s not natural for those girls to do what they’re doing. Any girl out on that court has had to put in a lot of hours playing.”

While Mast enjoys the effort the players put forth, Schlabach and the Hiland girls basketball team are happy to have Mast associated with the Classic for those same reasons.

“I’ve always respected Ben for a number of reasons,” Schlabach said. “Business-wise, Ben has a good mind. He knows what it takes to be successful. You can learn a lot hanging around a guy like Ben Mast. Ben works hard at what he does.”

Along with working hard in business, Mast also works hard on the golf course, where he has taught himself how to strike a ball with one arm.

Mast has been hitting the golf ball in Florida every day since Dec. 15. He took a break to return to Ohio for the Classic, but will be headed back south this week where he will stay until the middle of February.

“I play golf five times a week in Florida and close to that in Ohio,” he said. “I love golf because it’s a challenge, playing with the one arm. I’ve learned a lot of patience.”

Along with hard work, Mast also credits religion for getting him through his accident 40 years ago and taking him in the right direction in life.

Although Mast grew up Amish, he became a Mennonite after childhood. He counts the Bible as his favorite piece of literature and is thankful for all he does have.

“I’ve been blessed with what the Good Lord gave me,” he said.