Life Story Visitation
Life Story Service
Saturday, January 20, 2024
12:30 PM EST
Oak Grove Cemetery
1128 E 2nd St
Lawton, MI 49065
Life Story / Obituary
A man who embraced each day as a gift and never shied from hard work, Tony Castagnasso was both a big, tough guy and a man who could be silly and fun. He possessed a quick wit and was a fantastic storyteller, weaving in humor and remembering even the most minor details of things he’d heard and experienced. When others told him stories, he listened purposefully and created meaningful connections. A natural teacher and mentor, Tony was happy to share his knowledge and skills with others. With his love for horses and family and getting a job done right, Tony dedicated himself to giving his best. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend, Tony will long be remembered and so very missed.
1956 proved a year of vibrant growth, with consumerism taking off in previously unimaginable ways. For the first time in history, seven out of ten families in the US owned an automobile, and new laws were created to require seat belts to be installed on all new cars. McDonald’s, TV dinners, and cans of Coca-Cola all became household mainstays. At the same time, Rock and Roll music continued to grow in popularity with more idols, including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and The Platters. This time of hope grew even brighter for Donald and Helen (Muddox) Castagnasso as they welcomed their son, Tony, to their family on June 28 in Fallon, Nevada.
Tony and his twin brother were the youngest of six kids and grew up on their parent’s farm, where they raised and trained draft horses. Going back several generations, his family showed horses all over the country. From a young age, Tony developed an unwavering work ethic and a passion for agriculture, horses, and hockey. He grew up playing hockey in Canada with his brothers and friends, and he and his twin even had matching Toronto Maple Leafs uniforms. As soon as the irrigation ditches froze over, they’d grab their gear and hit the ice. Hockey remained a lifelong love for Tony. He enjoyed playing with his kids. Even if he didn’t have a net or pads, he’d let his kids shoot the puck at him to ensure they had fun. Once, he decided to make a skating rink at the park in Lawton. With signature precision, he shoveled off the tennis courts, flooded them, and the rink was ready. Tony also became an award-winning blacksmith, shoeing his own horses and winning the National Scotch Bottom contest at the age of seventeen.
After high school, Tony began working for Budweiser, driving their iconic Clydesdales all over the country. He eventually started Budweiser’s West Coast hitch. He transported horses from St. Louis to California and later worked with draft horse hitches for private owners all over the country. Tony was especially proud of the fact that he was driving the Budweiser hitch at Super Bowl 13.
Of his many talents was the way he spoke to horses; his deep, soft voice was naturally calming. Tony’s gentle touch and big heart made him a powerful advocate for animals. He was an esteemed horse show judge who many regarded as fair and honest. Tony was a true friend to all the animals he worked with, treating them with dignity, respect, and the utmost care.
In 1978, while picking up Clydesdales at Budweiser in New Hampshire, Tony had the good fortune of meeting Maureen Canavan. Tony caught her eye while she was on stable duty as a tour guide. They went out for a pizza, and the rest is history. When they married in 1979, Tony was delighted to welcome her daughter, Jennifer, from a previous marriage as his own.
Since 1983, Tony and Maureen have called Paw Paw home even when his work brought them across the country. Raising their children on Meadowview Farm, Tony often had up to 15 horses involved in breeding, showing, and selling. His two priorities were horses and family, usually in that order. Even on Christmas, he’d water and feed the horses first, while Christmas waited until they were taken care of. Though often busy, Tony was always present for his kids. Protective and level-headed, Tony was a good dad who taught his kids everything he could, including, of course, how to show horses.
When he was young, Tony grew up learning the importance and impact of agriculture. Through his life, he fostered awareness to farming practices and convention to his children and community. He was always thoughtful about crop management in a way that would sustain livestock, the land, and people alike.
Tony drove trucks for Packers Food Express and later started their semi-truck instructor school. He also delivered drivers license examinations for student drivers in the area. Any of his CDL students in the last 30 years probably learned from him and remembers what a stickler he was for safety and his legendary saying, “Don’t show up in flip flops!” Tony led by example and was proud of logging over two million miles accident and citation-free in his semi. Nominated for National Driver of the Year, he was proud to represent the companies he drove for.
Without a doubt, Tony was one of the hardest-working people you could ever meet. He balanced working as a full-time driver and student driver instructor while managing his own farm and horses. His kids blame their dad for their own hard work ethic. The only time he called in sick was when he broke his ankle, and he fought not to call in then. Regardless of how much work he had to do, Tony always made time for dinner with his family every day and read his kids bedtime stories, though he almost always fell asleep while doing so.
Tony was extremely organized and had a routine for everything, from his morning coffee to how and when he put on his shoes. He believed in thinking ahead, doing things right, and making sure everything had its place. He was a master at making daily to-do lists. He wouldn’t take a break until the list was done, even if the kids couldn’t tough it out. Whether on the list or not, Tony never failed recognize the important moments, like calling his daughter Rebecca each year to deliver his celebratory, “Just wanted to be the first one to say happy birthday… a day early."
According to Tony, there were only two kinds of beer: Budweiser and root beer! He was extremely social and easily made and maintained decades-long friendships wherever life took him. Even while on trips across the country or overseas sharing an adventure with Maureen, he was bound to run into someone he knew and could tell you something interesting about them and probably their horse’s pedigree as well.
Another passion for Tony was the weather. He always knew the weather wherever his friends and family lived and before it came up in conversation. Even for his friends in far off places like Saskatchewan, Canada.
A man who lived life to the fullest and led with his heart in all things, Tony was an inspiring role model for all who were lucky enough to know him. Without a doubt, his legacy of love, compassion, dedication, forethought, and expert care will proudly live on in the lives of those he so dearly loved.
Anthony Castagnasso of Paw Paw, age 67, died on January 16, 2024. He is preceded in death by his daughter, Jennifer Castagnasso; grandson, Nathan Brown; and brother, Dennis Castagnasso. Surviving are his wife, Maureen; children: Rebecca Castagnasso, Douglas (Morgan) Castagnasso; grandchildren: Nadia Brown, Leo, Ava, and Zoe Castagnasso; siblings: Simone Goyenche, Carrie Hudson, Mike (Shelly) Castagnasso, and Barry Castagnasso; nieces and nephews; and a worldwide community of friends.
Please join us at a Life Story Visitation on Friday, January 19, from 5-7 PM at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Homes, 60900 M40, Paw Paw 269-657-3870. A Life Story Service will be held Saturday, January 20 at 11 AM, also at the funeral home. Visit Tony’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook.