Vernon L. Kasten, 81, a life-long resident of Jackson, died Tuesday, June 29, 2004, at Southeast Missouri Hospital.
He was born May 26, 1923, in Jackson, son of Louis William Benjamin and Francis Mary Philpott Kasten. He and Stacia Elizabeth Lawrence were married April 13, 1957.
Survivors include his wife; two sons, Vernon L. Kasten, Jr. of Jackson and Lawrence C. Kasten of Cape Girardeau; two daughter-in-laws, Stephanie Ruff Kasten and Alison Lane Kasten; a brother, Kenneth G. Kasten of Jackson; and two granddaughters, Chloé Kasten and Laurel Kasten.
His parents; a stepmother, Edna L. Kasten; and a sister, Dorothy Kasten Manes, preceded him in death.
Vernon L. Kasten was president and a member of the board of directors of Kasten Masonry Sales, Kasten Concrete Products and Kasten Clay Products. He was co-founder, president and a member of the board of directors of Ceramo Co. Inc., located in Jackson, that is the nation's largest manufacturer of red clay pottery.
Vernon attended Southeast Missouri State University from the fall of 1941 to the spring of 1943 where he focused on pre-engineering. During his years at Southeast he was a member of the university band and orchestra and Gamma Delta fraternity.
In 1945, he was conferred Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Ceramic Engineering, from Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy/University of Missouri-Rolla. At Rolla, he was president of Sigma Pi fraternity and the Interfraternity Council. He also participated in the ROTC Band.
Upon graduation from the university, Vernon returned to Jackson with classmate Raymond Jones and Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy faculty member Paul Herold to found Ceramo Co. He followed a family tradition established by his grandfather, R.C. Kasten, who came to Jackson in 1895 from Uniontown, Mo., where he had been a brick maker's apprentice, and purchased half ownership of what is now designated Kasten Clay Products.
In 1920 R.C. Kasten's four sons (including Vernon's father, Louis W. Kasten) bought the remaining half ownership from Joe Schmucke. Kasten Clay Products remains a family-owned business today.
When Vernon Kasten, Herold and Jones endeavored to make clay flowerpots, Vernon secured clay from his family's brick plant, formulated the components, and engineered the process to manufacture red clay pottery. Hence, the three launched Ceramo Co. on the site where it resides today.
The entrepreneurs actually extracted their own clay and dried their pots in a barn loft on the property. On Thanksgiving Day, 1945, Vernon Kasten and long-time sales manager, Irvin Rasche, initiated constructing a kiln which they laid brick-by-brick until impeded by freezing mortar! By 1950, Kasten had purchased the interests of Herold and Jones and incorporated Ceramo Co.
The family tradition continues with Vernon's son, Vernon L. Kasten, Jr., who worked with his father the past seventeen years. Today, Ceramo Co., Inc. has the capacity to produce 50 million clay pots a year and has more than 100 employees. Ceramo Co., Inc. currently also imports pottery for distribution from at least eight countries. Ceramo Co. Inc. has survived two devastating fires and most recently, a tornado.
In 1994, Vernon was the recipient of the University of Missouri-Rolla Entrepreneur Award for his innovations in the ceramic industry. He received the accolade of an honorary doctorate Professional Engineering degree in Ceramic Engineering by the University of Missouri at Rolla during the 1995 May commencement ceremonies in recognition of his career accomplishments.
On Oct. 19, 2002, Vernon was one of five initial honorees to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the National Alumni Council at Southeast Missouri State University for his business, professional and civic contributions.
In addition to being a business leader, his service to the community was notable.
Vernon served as president, secretary and treasurer of St. Paul Lutheran Church Voters Assembly in Jackson and sang in the choir 50-plus years.
He was active in the Rotary Club, serving as club president and secretary and was proud of his 30-year perfect attendance record. Close to his heart was his chairmanship of the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program Committee and the Rotary District Youth Exchange Committee.
He has been president, secretary and a board member of the Easter Seals Society of Cape Girardeau. For six years Vernon served on the board of directors of the Jackson Industrial Development Board and was president for one term. He functioned as a member of the St. Francis Foundation Board of St. Francis Medical Center for ten years.
Kasten was a member of the following organizations: secretary/treasurer of the National Clay Pot Manufacturers Association since 1956; Jackson Chamber of Commerce; Friends of Scouting; American Ceramic Society; National Institute of Ceramic Engineers; Keramos, a national honorary ceramic fraternity; Southeast Missouri Engineers Club; International Business Institute at Southeast Missouri State University; and the Jackson Municipal Band. He enjoyed the camaraderie of friends in the Tower Club.
Friends may call at McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson from 5 to 8 p.m. today, and at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jackson beginning at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Paul Lutheran Church with the Rev. Robert Henrichs officiating. Burial will be in Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson.
The family requests memorials be designated to St. Paul Lutheran Church Organ Fund, Saxony Lutheran High School Foundation, or Rotary International Foundation.
Vernon will be remembered as a devoted, kind and gentle, loving husband, father and "granddaddy."