May 11th 1932 - Jul 30th 2012
A man who brought so much light and love to the world around him, Erwin Kasten lived a full and rewarding life. He never focused his attention on building wealth or great stature according to the world’s standards, but he made it his mission to spread happiness to everyone he met. A more devoted family man would be hard to find as he supported not only his children but also his grandchildren in everything they did. A prominent businessman in the community he called home for 70 years, Erv accomplished many things of which to be proud, yet he was a humble man whose work ethic serves as an inspiration to all who knew him. Although he will be deeply missed, his memory will be a lasting treasure given to those he leaves behind.
Life in America during the early 1930s was anything but easy due to the great hardship of the Great Depression that blanketed our nation. With an unemployment rate that peaked at over 25 percent during this decade there were countless Americans without work. During the election of 1932 Americans used their power to show President Herbert Hoover how they felt about his term in office by electing Franklin D. Roosevelt by 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59 with great hopes for change. It was during this same year that a young couple from Saugatuck, Michigan, was pleased to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy on May 11th. Born at the Kirby House in Douglas, Erwin was one of two children born to his parents, Erwin F. and Virginia Kasten, and was raised in the family home alongside his sister, Dorothy. His parents paid their debt for their son’s birth using chickens and eggs. Erv’s father was a local justice of the peace while his mother worked as a bank teller.
Often known as Butch as a young boy, Erv experienced a childhood that was reflective of the generation. He was able to lay on his bed and pick cherries from the orchard behind their house through his bedroom window. At times other kids teased Erv by calling him pigeon toed castin‘ rod. He attended local schools including Saugatuck High School where he lettered in both basketball and baseball. Erv was even named most valuable player by his 1951 championship basketball team. He also worked with his father in the family business and enjoyed memorable trips to Wisconsin to visit his grandmother.
After graduating from high school in 1951, Erv served in the United States Army. While in the service he was both a line cook and also a military police officer. Erv was able to remain stateside during the Korean Conflict.
With his duty to his country fulfilled Erv returned to Michigan where he established a successful business, Erwin R. Kasten Beverage Company. During his later years Erv worked as a manufacturer’s representative for plumbing supplies.
While he was busy establishing his career, Erv met the woman who stole his heart. Her name was Donna M. Beach, and she thought he was rich while he thought she was passionate. In reality they were both wrong, but they were a perfect match. Erv and Donna met at the Sand Bar in Saugatuck. They became husband and wife on September 26, 1959, at a beautiful ceremony at the Methodist Church in Grand Rapids. Together they were blessed with four children: Virginia, Carolyn, Janet, and Don. Erv was a constant presence in the lives of his children and instilled his strong work ethic within them through the example he set. He was their strongest supporter in everything they took on and was thrilled to become a grandfather later in life. Just as he had with his own children, Erv supported Meghan, Kate, Emily, Harrison, and Abigail in both their school and sporting events. He had a fun-loving side, too, and was famous for asking, “What did the monkey say when he ran over his tail with the lawn mower? It won’t be long now!”
Throughout his life Erv found so many things enriching. Some of his best times were shared with those he loved like his 65th surprise birthday party and Christmas Eve and other special days spent with family. There were also Copper Harbor and Keweenaw Mountain Lodge vacations and motorhome trips as well. Erv was plugged in to his community not only through his work but also as a Sunday school teacher and an active member of both the Masonic Lodge and the local American Legion. He was a history buff who was a fan of Tigers baseball, basketball of any kind, and musicals from the 1950s.
Erwin Kasten was a man of true character and high moral principles whose outgoing personality drew others near with ease. He was the sort of guy who could talk to anyone and never met a stranger. Erv brought joy and smiles to all who were within his reach and had a witty charm that was all his own. He was a loving husband and doting father and grandfather whose family was his greatest source of pride and joy. The timeless legacy Erv leaves behind will remain alive and well in the generations who follow him.
Erwin R. Kasten died on July 30, 2012. Erv’s family includes his four children, Virginia (Gary) Gielincki Kasten of Southfield, MI, Carol (Kevin) Wardin of Hemlock, MI, Janet (Doug) Diehl of Farmington Hills, MI, Don Kasten and Jeffery Markel of Thibodaux, LA; five grandchildren, Meghan, Kate, Emily, Harrison, and Abigail; sister, Dorothy L. Jewell of Ruston, LA; and many beloved nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be at 1:30 p.m., Friday, August 3, 2012, at First Congregational Church, 296 Hoffman in Saugatuck. Reverend Edith Winter will be officiating. Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery in Saugatuck. Visitation will be from 6-9 p.m., Thursday, August 2, 2012, at Saugatuck Chapel – Dykstra Funeral Homes 520 Lake Street in Saugatuck and from 9:00-11:00 a.m., Friday, August 3, 2012, at Saugatuck Chapel. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a memory or sign the online guestbook.