In Memoriam: David Lawrence Casbon (1940–2021)

I was saddened this past weekend to learn of Dave Casbon’s passing. He was my first cousin, once removed, one of my father’s only three first cousins.

Dave and I corresponded a fair amount over many years because of our shared interest in Casbon family history. We had some good conversations about our history and Dave filled in some details that I didn’t have.

I have happy recollections of Dave from my infrequent childhood visits to Valparaiso and the Casbon Electric store there. In recent years, when I travelled to “Valpo” to do research, I would usually meet Dave for breakfast or lunch.

Dave liked to post on Facebook. He had an avid interest in Porter County History. He was also a talented cartoon artist. Most of all, he loved his family and he loved University of Michigan sports.

(Left) “The Arrows” in concert; Dave is playing sax on the right; (Right) Dave (right) and friends at Casbon Electric Company; images are from Dave’s Facebook page

(Left) Dave and Harden; they were married 17 October 1961; (Right) One of Dave’s cartoons; images are from Dave’s Facebook page

I’ve been given permission to share this obituary, written by his daughter Carissa. We will miss you Dave.

David L. Casbon, 80, of Valparaiso, Indiana passed away peacefully on Saturday, April 10th at his home, surrounded by his family. Dave was born May 21, 1940 in Valparaiso, IN, to Lynnet M. Casbon and Alice B. Casbon. Dave is preceded in death by his parents, his beloved wife Harden, and his sister Mary Benninghoff. He is survived by his four daughters: Tacy (Peter) Borgman, Wendy Casbon, Carissa Casbon (Larry LaTourette) and Erin (Christopher) Sachse; his grandchildren: Stephanie (Caylin) Younger, Elizabeth Borgman, Samuel LaTourette, Lillian LaTourette, Alexander Sachse, and Kate Sachse. He is also survived by his niece, Julie Trager, nephew, Steven Benninghoff and many wonderful friends and extended family members.

Dave was born and raised in Valpo and graduated from Valparaiso High School in 1958. While in high school, he played saxophone in the rock band Leroy Bowman and the Arrows. The band recorded two singles, “Graveyard” and “Uh huh,” both of which are still available on major streaming services.

Dave attended the University of Michigan, where he became a member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity and served on the Michigan Student Government Board. He earned his degree in Business Administration from U of M in 1962, but remained a lifelong Wolverine fan. During his senior year at Michigan, he married the love of his life, Harden Walton Freeman.

He and Harden returned to Valparaiso after college, where he worked at his family’s business, Casbon Electric Company. Under his direction, Casbon’s became a pioneer in technology, becoming the first store in Northern Indiana to sell VCRs. Dave trained and taught himself about personal computers, helping Portage Schools become computerized. He was also instrumental in helping the Porter County Sheriff’s Department create one of the first server-based PC networks in county government.

Dave was a pillar of the community, serving in leadership roles in a multitude of community organizations. He served as the President of the United Way, President of the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana, President of the Valparaiso Merchants Association, and Director of the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. He was named to the Action Council of the National Federation of Independent Businesses representing the needs of small businesses across the country. He was a Paul Harris Fellow of the Valparaiso Rotary Club, an arbitrator, a Scottish Rite Master of the Order of Demolay, a member of the Saturday Evening Club, and an enthusiastic contributor to the Porter County Historical Museum.

Dave was one of the founding members of the Kankakee Valley Job Training Program that has positively impacted the lives of thousands and eventually became the Indiana Center of Workforce Innovations, on whose board he served until a few months ago. In his capacity as Chair of the Kankakee Valley Job Training Program (a private industry council), he also served as Chair of the State Association of Private Industry Council Chairs. The Kankakee Valley Job Training Program was so extraordinary, it was one of 10 private industry councils in the nation selected for a United States Department of Labor study on exemplary Private Industry Councils in 1991.

Dave won several awards for his public service contributions, including the Outstanding Director Award from the Northwest Indiana Better Business Bureau and the Dorothy M. Porter Award in recognition of “his unique commitment to the principles of volunteerism and service above self-service.”

By far though, Dave’s proudest achievement was his four girls, Tacy, Wendy, Carissa and Erin, their husbands, Peter, Larry, and Christopher, and his six grandchildren, Stephanie, Elizabeth, Samuel, Lillian, Alexander and Kate. In fact, one time, when the family traveled to Washington, D.C. so Dave could speak with lawmakers about the Kankakee Valley Private Industry Council, he blew off a small audience with President Ronald Reagan so he could sightsee with his family. Dave attended every single play, concert, event and game in which any of his four girls participated. His girls will miss his advice, his love, and his wicked sense of humor.

Visitation is Thursday, April 15th from 4:00-7:00 PM at Bartholomew Funeral Home, 102 Monroe Street, Valparaiso, IN 46383, Funeral services are Friday, April 16th at 12:00 PM at the First Christian Church, 1507 E. Glendale Boulevard, Valparaiso, IN 46383. There will be an interment service immediately following the funeral at Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso. Per the family’s request, masking and social distancing protocols will be observed at these events. Masks will be provided, should you need one. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the United Way of Porter County, Indiana.

The Collage Explained

The photo collage at the top of every blog page is composed of different images related to the Casbon journey.

Here are the stories behind the images.

Background: Map showing “Meldreth.”

Meldreth ord surv map 1945 color(Click on image to enlarge)

This is from a 1945 British Ordinance Survey map.[1]. The earliest I’ve been able to trace my ancestors is the 16th century in the parishes of Meldreth and Melbourn (just southeast of Meldreth on the map). Meldreth is about 9 miles southwest of the city of Cambridge, England.For the collage I changed the map from color to sepia tone.

Postcard of Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth, c.1900-1910.[2]

Meldreth church
(Click on image to enlarge)

This is where the Meldreth Casbons were baptized, married, and buried. The parish records are one of the most valuable resources for finding information about our family. Many of these records are available online from sites like FamilySearch, Ancestry, and FindMyPast. They are also available on microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Photo: “Room for one more”

Herb casbon on old car
(Click on image to enlarge)

Herbert A Casbon (1910-1989) is squatting on the hood of the car. Others labeled in the photo are (L to R) Ed Quinn, Dan Myers and Russell Ludington. The car looks like a Model T to me. Herb Casbon was the son of Amos Casbon (1869-1956) and grandson of James Casbon (abt 1814-1884), who emigrated to the United States in 1871. James’ descendants form one branch of the Casbons who came from Meldreth, England to Porter County, Indiana. The photo is undated; courtesy of Michael Casbon.

“Murder!”

Vidette Microfilm Reports of James Death 1884 inverted
(Click on image to enlarge)

This article from the 28 August 1884 Porter County Vidette describes the circumstances of James Casbon’s death. James was one of two brothers who left England and settled in Porter County, Indiana. Every indication suggests that James had a hard life, but that by coming to America, he gave his family opportunities they would not otherwise have had. I’ll talk more about James in a future post.

Christening record of Isaac Casbon, 1773

Isaac C 1773 baptism
(Click on image to enlarge)

This is part of a page from the Bishop’s Transcripts for the Parish of Meldreth.[3] Ministers were required to make a copy of their parish records and send them to the Bishop every year…hence Bishop’s Transcript. The records were written with ink on parchment. If you look closely, you’ll see patterns on the parchment characteristic of animal hide. The top of this record says “An Account of Christenings Marriages and Burials from January the First 1773 to January the First 1774 taken from the Register of the Parish of Meldreth.” The last entry shown says “Isaac Son of Thomas and Jane Casbull – – – – – July 11.” Recall from the previous post that Casbull is a early variant of Casbon.

Isaac is important to the Casbon Journey because he is the common ancestor of most of the Casbons in the United States today. Two of Isaac’s sons, Thomas and James (see above) emigrated from England to the U.S. in the mid- to late 1800s. Both ended up in Porter County, Indiana. Isaac probably has living descendants in the United Kingdom from his other two sons William and Joseph (if you are one of those descendants and reading this, please provide a comment to this post!).

“Casbon Bros. Electric Co.” Advertisement, Portage High School Yearbook, 1949

Casbon Electric Ad 1949 Portage HS yearbook

The Casbon Brothers Electric Company was founded by brothers Loring (1896-1970) and Lynnet (1899-1983) Casbon in the early 1930s, and joined a short while later by their brother Leslie (1894-1990) in Valparaiso, Indiana. I have fond memories of wandering through the store in the 1960s, marveling at the latest technology such as transistor radios, and chatting with the repairmen. The three brothers were great grandsons of Thomas Casbon (1803-1888), the first of Isaac’s sons to emigrate to the United States (in 1846).

Photo: Leslie Casbon, 1918

Les C Wilbur Wright Field 1918
(Click on image to enlarge)

Leslie Christy Casbon, mentioned in the previous paragraph, was my grandfather. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and completed flight training in 1918. He remained in the Army Reserves and was reactivated in World War II. Handwritten on the back of the photo: “me 1918 Wilbur Wright Field.”

[1]“British War Office GSGS 4127, Ordnance Survey Popular and New Popular Editions.” Sheet 148 – Saffron Walden. A Vision of Britain Through Time http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk [accessed 11 September 2016] (This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth)
[2]Contibuted by Brian Clarke, “Holy Trinity Church, North End, Meldreth.” Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network http://meldreth.ccan.co.uk/content/catalogue_item/holy-trinity-church-north-end-meldreth-2 [accessed 11 September 2016]
[3] Church of England. “Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862.” Microfilm of original records in the Cambridge County Record Office, Cambridge. FHL Microfilm #2358007, image 237 of 899. Available online at FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-NF4Z?i=236&cat=1108704 [accessed 5 November 2015]