Area doctor, civic leader Melvin Kasten dead at 79

Friday, April 16, 2004

Dr. Melvin C. Kasten, who died Thursday morning, will be remembered as a dedicated doctor, a civic leader and a devoted friend to many. He was 79.

Kasten opened his surgical practice in Cape Girardeau in 1955 and practiced medicine for 40 years. He was one of the original 20 physicians who began Doctors' Park in 1971.

Dr. Robert Hunt knew Kasten since he began his own practice in 1971.

"As a new surgeon coming into town, it was great to learn by Mel's example of hard work and dedication to his patients," Hunt said. "It was good to see how he dealt with everyday problems."

Kasten was born and raised in Jackson. He served in the Air Force during World War II. He graduated in 1949 from Southeast Missouri State University and in 1951 graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.

He met his wife, the former Mary Critchlow, in 1947 on a double date when they were both students at Southeast Missouri State University. Kasten's planned date was her roommate, he had said, but eventually the two began dating and were married in June 1949 in Matthews, Mo. They raised three children and had nine grandchildren.

Mary Kasten served in the Missouri House of Representatives and retired in 2000 to take care of her husband, who underwent heart bypass surgery Jan. 4, 2000. Dr. Kasten also suffered from diabetes and lung problems related to smoking.

Sarah Holt had been Kasten's office manager at Doctors' Park since it opened. She recalls his dedication as a surgeon and his dedication to his family and patients.

"He would have a full book of patients every day he was in the office," Holt said. "I remember that he never minded working. He never minded taking calls."

Margie Fowler, who was a lab technician for 35 years with Kasten, said "I just remember him as a wonderful guy."

During his career Kasten was chief of staff at Southeast Missouri Hospital from 1973 to 1974 and at St. Francis Medical Center from 1968 to 1969. He was chief of surgery at both hospitals.

Kasten was a member of the American Medical Association, the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts. He was also a member of the Southeast Missouri Hospital Board of Trustees, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Broad of Directors, and St. Andrew Lutheran Church.

In 2002, Kasten was honored by the College of Science and Mathematics at Southeast Missouri State University at the university's annual merit awards presentation as an alumnus who has brought distinction to himself and the university.

In addition to his medical practice, Kasten was active in the Republican party and in the community. He served on the Cape Girardeau City Council from 1992 to 2000.

Al Spradling served on the council with Kasten before being elected mayor. He said he has known Kasten both as a physician and a councilman for most of his life.

"He was a very friendly, outgoing person who would help you through your trials and tribulations," Spradling said. "He wanted to help you out the best he could. He was very polite, very kind and spoke his mind when he felt it was necessary. He did not speak a lot of words unless they were necessary."

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