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Life Story / Obituary
Antouine James Castaneda drew his first breath on July 23, 1983. He was 16 months younger than his brother, Dustin, and experienced a typical upbringing. All who knew Antouine would agree that he was larger than life. A brave man of honor and courage, he accomplished a great many things of which to be proud, but he was a humble and generous person who would do anything for anyone. Antouine would say that his greatest accomplishment was becoming a dad, and since he was a kid at heart he loved nothing more than goofing around with his girls. He was a loving and kindhearted man who was quick to forgive, never holding a grudge. With a smile always on his face, Antouine was a stranger to none and a friend to all. Life will never be the same without him here, but his spirit will remain a vibrant presence in the hearts and lives of all who were within his reach.
As a young boy Antouine was full of life. He was a talented skateboarder, along with his brother, and seemed to be out boarding all day every day. Antouine also snowboarded and played a variety of sports in which he excelled. His parents divorced when he was in middle school, and he later went to the Chicago area to live with his father, Rick, and stepmom, Sarah. While there, Antouine attended Bartlett High School where he played basketball. He loved hanging out with his friends, playing Monopoly, skateboarding, working out, and really got into nutrition. Antouine generally ate healthy and drank plenty of milk, but he usually ran through Burger King after a workout to get two Whopper Jr sandwiches, or “fat boy cake,” as he called them. Of course he still ate dinner at home, too! Antouine woke up every day and said, "Rangers lead the way," 10 times.
In the year of 2001, Antouine enlisted in the Army and spent a substantial amount of time at Fort Benning, Georgia. He went on to Ranger school and was sent to Iraq for the invasion. As part of the 75th Ranger Regiment for four years, Antouine was sent to Iraq and was part of the Battle of Hadithah Dam where his unit received a Valorous Unit Award on November 2, 2005. This award is only second to the Presidential Citation Award. He completed two tours in Iraq in addition to one tour in Afghanistan. Known as “Cas,”Antouine became a sergeant and was among the best of the best. Antouine was one of the four Army Rangers who were selected to be a part of the 60th anniversary celebration. He and his fellow Rangers reenacted the D-Day invasion by parachuting onto the beach of Normandy. He then went on to work in security with Blackwater Worldwide at the highest level of security. Throughout his three years there, Antouine, who was known as “Lips,” put his life on the line for dignitaries several times.
Not to be forgotten during Antouine’s years in school was his introduction to fellow classmate, Sharon Smith. They became high school sweethearts, dated for several years, and on August 4, 2007, they were married. They built their home in Maricopa, Arizona, complete with a pool, an enormous television, and the big marlin that he caught while on his honeymoon. Together they were blessed with two daughters, Vanessa and Viviana, who are six and four. Antouine loved nothing more than being a dad, and his girls were the light of his life. They called him “King James” since they frequently played princess together, and every night he read them books and also sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” When they weren’t playing dress up, Antouine and his girls loved going to the zoo, swinging, playing games, playing with Play-Doh, or drawing. He loved watching his girls swim, do gymnastics, and play Tee-Ball. Although his marriage ended in divorce last year, he was forever grateful for his beautiful girls, the love of his life.
Antouine was a lover of life and a man of many interests. He was a great cook whose specialties included pasta, chicken, and cookies, and he loved cheese pizza, Mexican food, and hot wings - the hotter the better! Every morning Antouine started his day with peaches and cream oatmeal and egg whites, and he also had cases of granola bars on hand and enjoyed protein shakes. Thanksgiving usually found him deep frying a turkey. Antouine had the time of his life on a 21 day primitive backpacking vacation to Brazil. He liked Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker, and lots of water, reading military history, all types of music, stars, and all the Disney movies. In fact, Antouine was known for his ability to recite lines from Lion King and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. He was impossible to defeat when it came to playing Medal of Honor, and his dogs were very special to him, Bugsy and Mari.
The sort of person everyone immediately loved, Antouine Castaneda was a blessing in every way. He had the biggest heart with a quick wit and a drive to excel in everything he did. Someone who was generous with the homeless, especially around the holidays, Antouine was completely selfless as he lived to serve others. He loved and adored his daughters, and he was the best dad around as his devotion to his daughters was unmatched. Antouine had been in school working toward becoming a counselor for troubled teens after serving his country for numerous years. His life cut much too short, he will be forever missed but never forgotten.
Antouine James Castaneda, of Phoenix, Arizona, died on July 23, 2015. Antouine’s family includes his 2 daughters: Vanessa (6 yrs. old) and Viviana (4 yrs. old); parents: Rick and Sarah Castaneda, and Natalie and Todd Elyea; brother, Dustin Castaneda (Amanda Norwood); former wife, Sharon Castaneda; grandparents: Yvonne Becker, Stan Worden, Pat Worden, Matthias and Frances Eichhorn, and Jane and Robert Elyea, great-grandmother, Beatrice Worden; 2 nephews: Logan and Jaxon Castaneda; several loving aunts and uncles; and his military family. He was preceded in death by his grandparents Santiago and Amelia Castaneda. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Thursday from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900 where services will be held Friday at 11:00 a.m. Burial with Military Honors provided by his Platoon’s honor guard will follow at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Antouine’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Soldier’s Best Friend.