May 13, 1920 – June 30, 2017
C. Philip Mugler, who died June 30 at the age of 97 in Community Hospice Bailey Family Center for Caring, St. Augustine, Fla., was believed to be the first Western New Yorker to be taken as a prisoner of war in World War II.
Serving in the Army in North Africa with the 1st Armored Division, Mr. Mugler was captured by Gen. Rommel’s troops in February 1943. Flown to Italy, he was packed into a prison train and taken to a concentration camp in Germany.
“We were starving to death in Stalag S-B near Berlin, where I was held from March 1943 to the middle of July in that year,” he told The Buffalo Evening News following his return home in May 1945.
“If the Red Cross boxes hadn’t started coming, I just couldn’t have survived,” he said. “I got so weak that it took minutes to gather strength enough to climb into my bunk.”
In 1944, while on a work detail at a prison farm near the Polish border, he discovered that he could trade cigarettes from his Red Cross packages for food on the black market.
“Three packs of cigarettes would get a dressed chicken and one pack would get six eggs,” he said. “The Polish prisoners would steal the eggs from the German civilians, who were rationed to 60 eggs a year.”
When Russian troops were advancing in February 1945, all the prisoners on the farm were taken on a forced 500-mile march across Germany. Near Hanover, he and a buddy heard an American tank, chased it down and were pulled aboard. After nearly 26 months in captivity, he was liberated.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. Mugler grew up in Orchard Park and attended Nichols School and Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ont.
Less than a week after returning from service, he married Jean Hoag, his high school sweetheart. They settled next door to his childhood home in Orchard Park and he returned to his job in sales with the Charles P. Mugler Paper Co., his father’s wholesale paper supply firm in downtown Buffalo.
He left the company in early 1960s, developed real estate and sold tax preparation materials and gold jewelry independently.
Mr. Mugler moved to East Otto in 1973 and wintered on a fishing trawler at Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon, Fla. He became a full-time Florida resident in 2012.
An adventurer, he hiked trails in Wyoming, Algonquin National Park, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and Muskoka Lake in Ontario. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing, scuba diving, canoeing and skiing. He was a flea market enthusiast, a fan of the singer Burl Ives, and he would recite Robert Service poems to unsuspecting dinner guests.
His wife died in 2002.
Survivors include a son, Charles P.; two daughters, Martha Clancy and Jane Wood; a sister, Joan Holl; three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in Orchard Park Presbyterian Church, 4369 S. Buffalo St., Orchard Park.