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Thursday, June 5, 2014

TBT: Uncle Butch

Oscar D. Casdorph II, "Butch," passed away on April 7, 2004, in Culiacan, Mexico.  Born in Charleston, WV, March 18, 1955, first child to Oscar D. Casdorph and Shirley Parsons.  

He is preceded in death by his brother, John D.  He is survived by his brother, Charles A. of Draper, UT, his two sisters, Sally A. Kazilek and Teresa C. Fontana of Tempe; his wife, Kim Clegg Casdorph, three children: Rayma M. Forney of Tempe, Robert A., U.S. Marine, and Lindsey E. of Chandler; Step-daughter Stephanie Marshall of Las Vegas; and two grandchildren; also his parents, Oscar and Shirley of Tempe.

He obtained his private pilot, instrument, multi-engine and certified flight instructor ratings at Sunbird Aviation in Chandler and then became an instructor there.  For several months he flew as a Corporate pilot for American Fence Co, returned to teaching and eventually started his own flight school in June, 2003, naming the school for his boyhood hero, Sky King, and Butch became Sky King II.

Butch had an immense love of flying, dogs and people.  He was especially devoted to family and friends and was incredibly helpful to strangers along the road, transporting people in need to wherever they had to go.

There will be a memorial service on Saturday April 24, 2004 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1221 W. Howe, Tempe, AZ.  Visitation with family at 9:00 a.m. with Service at 10:00 A.M.  Interment immediately following service at Green Acres Cemetery.  He will be greatly missed by all who loved him.

I was standing in the kitchen at my in-laws house when I received the call.  I nearly dropped the phone as the tears immediately came.  My uncle Butch, the most lively personality I had ever known, had died in a plane crash in Mexico when the small plane he was piloting had gone down.  And although dying in a plane crash is probably some people's worst fear, my first thought was, "At least he died doing what he loved."

Of course we went to Arizona for the funeral.  I kept thinking how glad I was that we'd made the trip to Tempe just a month before to celebrate my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary; that was the last time I'd ever hear Butch's hearty laugh.

Uncle Butch called me "Andrea Sue," which is not at all my middle name.  He was a huge tease, that fun uncle you are always so excited to see.  I have a scar on my leg from the burn I got on the exhaust pipe of his motorcycle when I was little.  The tradition of "laundry," the Christmas treats Grandma always stored on the shelves above her washer and dryer, will be passed on to my kids as a living legacy of the great fun I had with Uncle Butch.  And sometimes when my dad laughs, all I hear is Butch.

My family was asked to sing at the funeral - no easy task.  We sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings," a perfect tribute to a man who loved to fly.  I remembered a recent Christmas when he had taken a few of us up in a Cesna 182 to fly over the Arizona desert.  I got to be at the controls as we flew over the temple, lit up for the Christmas season.  We also sang "Prayer of the Children," which we barely made it through.  My dad's voice cracked a little, and it became very difficult for us to hold the 5 part harmonies together through the sniffles.  I made the mistake of looking my cousin Rayma, Butch's oldest daughter, in the eye.  Her small children's faces were tear-streaked, and I realized that for every ounce of amazing Uncle he had always been, he was probably 10 times as awesome to have as a grandpa.  My heart just broke for their loss.

But I have always loved funerals because of all the happy stories of all the best times in a person's life.  And Butch's funeral was no different.  The best part, without question, was when my grandpa played the recording from the answering machine Butch kept at his flight school.  Butch's voice announced, "It's a great day to fly," with the touch of West Virginia accent that he'd never quite lost.  Those six words echo in my mind every time I think of Butch.

However, nothing anyone said could compare to what took place at his flight school.  Butch's crash had been so severe that burial was not really an option.  My grandparents had opted for cremation, and Butch's remains were to be scattered from his flight-school plane across the Arizona desert.

We arrived at the flight school, having changed out of our funeral attire and into Butch's favorite fashion-wear: Hawaiian shirts.  The sight of so many people dressed like Uncle Butch was a stirring tribute to Butch's laid back life.  My favorite sight, however, was the long string of Volkswagons lining the streets leading to the school.  Butch had been a VW enthusiast to say the least, with parts and pieces of the German classic inhabiting much of his back yard.  Anyone who had access to a VW had driven it that day in tribute.

My grandpa boarded the plane, and we watched it circle the flight school.  If Butch couldn't remain on earth with his family, I know that up in that plane was exactly where he wanted to be.

Grandpa later shared the story of when he'd gone to Mexico to get Butch's body.  He'd arrived at the pre-arranged location, but no one could seem to locate my Uncle's remains.  Through some sort of mix-up, it was discovered that Butch's body was at the airport.  Grandpa didn't really consider it a mix-up at all.  He knew that's where he would find his son.

Recently, the Casdorph family joined together once again for a funeral.  We all sat outside at the same cemetery where Butch's life is memorialized.  We waited and listened as the final words were said before my grandma was interred.  A quiet moment was interrupted by the sudden whir of an engine overhead.  I looked up, and noticed my aunts doing so, too.  I was briefly disappointed to see a helicopter.  Butch certainly would have arrived to pay his tribute by plane!  Then I noticed that the engine's sound had brought his memory poignantly close to my aunts as well.   As we simultaneously thought of him, Butch was there with us us as we said goodbye to Grandma.

My cousin Robert has started to fill those jovial shoes.  I noticed on our most recent to trip to Arizona how he teases my kids in just the same way my dad used to tease me.  How he arrives by motorcycle, a cooler-than-anything guy the kids just can't get enough of.  How his voice has the same lilt and his laugh has the same infectiousness.  How people gather around when he tells stories.

I actually thought I had lost the pictures from Butch's funeral, so I've spent years visualizing those VW's lined up on that street.  I think of that every time I watch a family pay final tribute to someone who has passed on, and I see a bit of Butch in every VW bus and Hawaiian shirt I see.  The obituary tribute was certainly accurate, because 10 years later, he is still greatly missed by those who love him.


Mark Woods said...

So, so sorry to read this. I knew your uncle back in the latter part of the 70's at Eglin AFB. He built the VW Beetle that eventually took me back to Texas when I got out. He was an excellent mechanic, and a hoot to be around. The world is diminished with his passing.

Unknown said...

I am so happy to come across this post. For some reason this morning, I was thinking about my old friend Butch Casdorph and decided to google him. I was a fellow flight instructor with him at Sunbird Flight Services in Chandler around 2000 to 2002. He was an absolute delight to be around, and I was always in awe at how good of a teacher he was. Pulling up in his van, I know he didn't like to wear the "Sunbird" polo shirt that wasn't Hawaiian.

I heard of his death from some fellow coworkers, and my heart sunk. What a free spirit and good guy.

Was so glad to read this today. Than you - you had a very special uncle.

Jim Lambert

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