Ceramo's founder Kasten remembered as life-shaper

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Vernon Kasten Sr. found a way to make red-clay pottery back in 1950.

But before and after that time, he found a way to build relationships and a reputation as one of Jackson's most respected people.

Kasten, 81, died Tuesday, leaving a void in the local Rotary Club, his church choir and at Ceramo, the plant he established in 1950 and employs 100 people now.

In Rotary, he stretched a perfect-attendance streak over 30 years. During that time, he was instrumental in the club's international youth exchange program. He volunteered to fill out the paperwork.

"He really enjoyed working with kids," Rotary president Steve Skelton said. "That was a good fit for him."

Rotarian Dr. T. Wayne Lewis said Kasten was friendly in a quiet, subtle way.

"He's almost irreplaceable in the things he was doing with his communication throughout the world," he said. "He set up a model program for exchange students."

Lewis said he would often open his home to parents of the exchange students.

At work, associate Betty Scheper, a Ceramo employee since 1972, remembers a tireless, hard-working man who was fair to his employees and kept things loose exchanging inside jokes on the job.

"He was always professional," she said. "He always treated all us gals with great respect. If anybody needed help in a family situation, he was always willing to jump in and help. I certainly enjoyed working with him."

She said Kasten would frequently work late hours and even his vacations were often work-related.

"He was always focused on making this a better company," she said.

Still, Kasten made time to dress up as Santa Claus on different occasions and visit the local schools. Scheper even dressed up as an elf and went with him one time. Those type of moments have made for good memories for several Ceramo employees.

When Kasten's death became known Tuesday at Ceramo, the plant was almost silent, Scheper said.

"Faces turned white. There were tears, lumps in our throats. How can we go on without him?"

Scheper said Kasten did the design and drafting for new products, and no one can step in right away.

Mayor Paul Sander said he has known the Kasten family for a long time. The family has helped build Jackson, Sander said.

"I enjoyed him very much," the mayor said. "He was a true gentleman."

At the St. Paul Lutheran Church, Kasten sang in the choir for 50 years.

"He loved to give his voice to the Lord in praise and worship," said the Rev. Dave Johnson. "He loved to glorify God. He was an ambassador of good will."

Friends may call at McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson from 5 to 8 p.m. today. The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the St. Paul Lutheran Church.



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