“I never expected this would happen in a kazillion years,” Patti Kascht said. “ ... well, maybe when I was 70 or 80.”
What Patti is referring to is a recent phone conversation she had with lifelong friend, Robert Casaurang.
“When he called, he asked me what I was doing April 16,” Patti explained. “I thought it was about a group of us getting together for a trip to Catalina, which we have done in the past, but when I checked my calendar, I said ‘hey, wait a minute, that’s the day of the Raymond Parade.’”
That’s when Patti heard the words, “Congratulations. You and Dale have been named this year’s Grand Marshals.”
Patti was flabbergasted, yet flattered. When Patti told husband Dale, his reaction was, “I didn’t think we were old enough for that.”
“Patti and Dale were chosen because of their involvement and contributions to the community,” parade committee member Judy Leonard said. “They’ve lived here forever, and they’re just great people.”
Patti, 58, has called Raymond home her entire life. She grew up there, attended Raymond Elementary, and traveled two hours one way to Sierra High during her high school years. She has worked for the post office for 32 years, starting out as a clerk in the Raymond post office, later promoted to postmaster in 1999, and then promoted again in 2004 to postmaster at the Ahwahnee Post Office. Her father, Eugene Noles, was employed with the Raymond Granite Company for 30 years, and Patti and her brother still own their childhood home.
Dale, 52, grew up on a 200-acre dairy farm in Richmond, Minnesota, just 10 miles outside Coldspring, where Raymond Granite’s parent company is located. Dale, his grandfather, father, and cousins were employed there, until Dale’s father was promoted to manager at the Raymond site. And so, in 1984, at 21 years of age, Dale followed his parents out to California, first residing in Madera, and then Fresno.
Once he was introduced to Patti through mutual friends, Dale made his final move to Raymond in 1991. In 1999, they purchased the 40 acres they currently live on, and in 2000, they married, while Dale continued working with Raymond Granite.
It turns out that Raymond life wasn’t much different from living in Richmond, so it was an easy transition for Dale.
In 2004, after 18 years of employment, he decided it was time to branch out on his own. Because of the couple’s connection with granite, headstones seemed a logical fit, and so it was that Gateway Memorial, Inc., which makes granite headstones, came into being, with a main office in Merced, an evening office in Oakhurst, and an office in Hawaii.
The business was well on its way when life as they knew it suddenly came to an abrupt stop. In 2008, the fun-loving couple suffered a series of tragic losses. Dale’s mother died unexpectedly. A few months later, Patti lost her 30-year-old son, Russell, and then shortly after that, her mother died.
“It was all we could do to put one foot in front of the other,” Patti recalled.
The town rallied around the family, supporting and helping in every way possible to get them through a difficult 18-month-period. After all, it’s what makes a small, tight-knit town so special ... one where neighbor watches out for neighbor.
For the last 29 years, Patti has made parade plaques from granite.
“When the parade first started 30 years ago, the parade committee got the idea to hand out little granite pavers with the words ‘Raymond Parade First Place,’” Patti said. “Back then, you could ride your donkey. You could ride your bike. There were no categories so everyone who participated would get a first place plaque made of granite ... we would joke ‘everyone gets a piece of the rock.’”
While that tradition remains intact today, the festivities are a bit calmer now-a-days, as compared to those earlier years.
“Activities used to be in the middle of town between Frontier and the General Store ... it was looser and much crazier in the beginning,” Patti recalled.
The Kaschts may travel the parade route in style on two wheels, riding their Harley, “since no one has ever done that before,” Patti said.
No matter what their mode of transportation is, the couple will have plenty of family and friends cheering from the sidelines.
The Kaschts have three children from previous marriages. Daughter Kala, 28, lives in Manhattan Beach, while 29-year-old twins, Carrian and husband Kenny, and Mark and fianceé Eileena, live in Raymond. Since Russell’s death, the couple have been raising their grandson Kenny, now 17. They also have nine other grandchildren, plus a granddaughter on the way.
“I could never imagine raising my children anywhere else,” Patti said. “My daughter couldn’t wait to get away when she left home. She moved to Fresno, but once she had her first child, she couldn’t wait to get back to Raymond - the place she wants to raise her children.” (She now has three).
Excited to participate in, rather than observe the parade, Patti added, “We’ve seen years with less parade entries, and years with more parade entries ... this event is forever kind of changing.”
Despite the many different floats Patti has seen over the years, her favorite remains the one her then 3-year-old twins rode in - a float created by their grandfather, Tony Rodriguez, who using his three-wheeler made a wagon with a canopy over it, to pull the youngsters.
With the big day fast-approaching, both Dale and Patti look forward to connecting with old friends, some they see only once a year at this event.
Wanting the good times to last as long as possible, following the parade, the Grand Marshals are throwing a big bash at the Hills Pride Inn, owned by Casaurang. Everyone is invited to join in the celebration.
The 30th annual Raymond Parade, hosted by the Raymond Community Association, will begin at noon, April 16. There will be food and craft booths in town before and after the parade. Different from years past, these activities will be in the town area, not down at the Community Center.
The Raymond Museum, with new exhibits, will be open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
To celebrate 100 years of park service, the National Park Service and their ambassadors will participate in the parade, and will also have a booth near the Raymond Museum for park information.
The Mariposa County High School award-winning marching band will walk the parade route, and there will be antique cars, floats, and dancers.
The award presentations will be held at Hills Pride Inn, and the raffle winner will be announced there at 5 p.m.
Parade entries/details: Judy Leonard, (559) 689-3341.