Podcast #8 – Joe Caspari, as remembered by Bernard Waite – AUDIO
(To play the clip, see media link at beginning of this post, or click here.) Recorded as part of a collection created for the first annual Pickin’ and Ginnin’ Festival, entitled “A Great Place To Call Home.” (Originally compiled by Amelia Grace Jordan)
Joseph Caspari – “America’s Good Neighbor” as written by Nancy Hunt Ineichen
Rayville was fortunate to have Joseph Caspari, a naturalized U. S. citizen from Alsace-Loraine, France as a resident from the early 1900s until 1947 when he died.
His good deeds to the servicemen aboard troop trains during World War II brought him the honor of being named “America’s Good Neighbor” in a contest on the Tom Brennaman Radio Show. This information was heard by a local resident who regularly listened to the popular radio program.
Mr. Caspari never publicized this honor. His store, located next to the Rayville Bus Station, was filled with all sorts of interesting items and was known as a general store. The store was popular with young and old for everyone liked the kindly, slightly bald, somewhat rotund gentleman with the twinkling eyes and courteous ways.
As a child, I often visited his store and was allowed to look around and stay as long as I liked. Always before I left I was given a treat from one of the large jars holding candy placed on the counter. In my heart is reserved a special place for his memory. He was also a favorite of the local cafes. It is said that he enjoyed eating about six times a day. He worked hard, but not too hard, and didn’t keep many employees.
A part-time helper was the late Mrs. Dewey Baker, Sr. (Earline Boles), a well-known Rayville lady. His house was located about where Cochran-Clark CPA office is now on Madeline St. He went home after his working day, rarely attended social events but had many friends.
His spirit of patriotism and generosity surfaced during World War II when he met the troop trains passing through Rayville and gave fruit, candy and gum to the servicemen aboard.
Later, the trains stopped on the tracks across Highway 80 from his store and he was ready to give his gifts of kindness. These men remembered and it is assumed that one or more of them brought it to the attention of the Radio Show. He was said to have been of French-Jewish descent and may have been born in Paris.
He came to Rayville as a young man in his late teens. Here he remained until his death in 1947. America’s Good Neighbor, Mr. Joseph Caspari, chose Rayville as his final resting place. He is buried in the Rayville Masonic Cemetery.The Richland Beacon-News
13 Sep 1990, Thu • Page 6
An Example Others Should Follow
….Seldom does a troop train pass through our town, or a convoy of soldiers, or other members of the armed forces of the United States, that Mr. Joseph Caspari does not provide them with fruits, candies, cigarettes, or something which the boys crave and always appreciate. This commendable spirit of one of our most patriotic citizens is only one of his aids to the war effort, and he is deserving of the commendation of all liberty-loving citizens. This boost to the morale of the soldiers goes a long way towards making those boys feel like they have a country worth fighting for and dying for.The Richland Beacon-News
15 Aug 1942, Sat • Page 1
Joseph Caspari Real Friend To the Armed Forces And A Patriot of the Highest Order, ca., 1942
Joseph Caspari Real Friend To the Armed Forces And A Patriot of the Highest Order
At this Christmastime, when all people irrespective of religious beliefs and convictions join in a celebration which is meant to bring joy and goodwill to everyone, and the children look for the happy visit of Santa Claus, patriotic citizens naturally have their thoughts turn to the men in the Armed Forces of this Nation engaged in the bloodiest and most cruel conflict of all history.
Do the men in our armed forces have a Santa Claus? We believe they do in the National Government itself, which represents the combined spirit of our people, and they will not be forgotten.
Here in Rayville however we have a citizen who has not waited for Christmas to play Santa Claus to our boys in uniform, but during all these months since they have been called to the colors he has as far as has been humanly possible for him showered upon them all the good things usually associated with Christmas, or some other season of joy and plenty.
Mr. Joseph Caspari, merchant and planter of Rayville, who operates a store on the main street of Rayville, located on the Dixie Overland Highway and across the street from the Illinois Central Railroad, never lets a convoy of troops or a troop train pass through our town without giving the boys boxes of fruits, candies, cakes, pies, cookies, chipped potatoes, cigarettes and everything good which he believes will please their appetites and give them cheer and bring home to them the fact that somebody is thinking about them while they offer their services and their lives to their country’s defense.
A visit to Mr. Caspari’s store will interest you to see the dozens of boxes prepared to give the soldiers, stout strings around them so that they may be lifted to windows of the passing trains transporting troops. All of the engineers on this division of the Illinois Central know about Joe Caspari, and they slow down their trains, and sometimes actually stop for a brief spell, while he runs out of his store with his boxes of gifts for the soldiers.
Friends assist him in passing up the heavy boxes and sometimes he is enabled to get to the boys in uniform a dozen or more packages before the train pulls out. He has spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars in this patriotic work carried on by himself at his own expense, and he gets the greatest thrill out of these contributions to the soldier boys.
He has hundreds of letters from men in the armed forces thanking him for bounteous gifts they received as they passed through our town, and any number of these letters bear the signatures of scores of the soldier boy, beneficiaries of Joe Caspari’s big warm heart. Whenever Joe finds a stranded serviceman trying to get home or back to his station he provides him with a ticket and money for expenses of the trip. Joe Caspari’s patriotic contributions touch every phase of effort that any civilian might be called on to do for the prosecution of the war.
When the aluminum drive was on, Joe took the aluminum ware out of his stock in his store, bent it up so that it could not be used for domestic purposes and contributed all of it to the war aluminum drive. He has bought thousands of dollars worth of war bonds, more than any man in Richland parish, in all probability.
To every drive seeking civilian aid to the war effort, he has contributed no less than $25.00 on each occasion, many times when the average citizens subscribed from $1.00 to $5.00. He gave two used automobiles to the Red Cross, then along came the scrap drive. He bought the two cars back from the Red Cross and donated them to the scrap drive.
He lives the war heart and soul and every day makes liberal donations of some kind to some movement helping to win the war and bring success to the United Nations.
Some of you who might read this will wonder who Joseph Caspari is and where he was born, and more about his life. Before we tell you this we want to say that it took diplomacy and capitalizing on a friendship of nearly a half-century to win his consent to say anything about his contributions to the winning of the war. He had not sought and did not want any publicity. When we reminded him that his example might bear fruit in arousing some other citizen to do more to help win the war, he yielded.
Mr. Caspari was born 68 years ago in Lauterbourg, Alsace, lived a while in Paris, came to New Orleans when a boy, December 6, 1894, where he remained 5 months. Then he came to Winnsboro where his uncle, the late A. Landauer, lived and was a leading businessman. He moved to Rayville within the next month, to work for Chas. Titche, one of our leading merchants and foremost citizens, and he has been a resident of Rayville ever since, which covers a span of 48 years. He left the employ of Chas. Titche and entered the mercantile business for himself August, 1914, and has successfully conducted that business ever since; and now is, in our way of looking at it, a man of means.
Mr. Caspari has a number of relatives in this country, but remaining a bachelor, he has lived many years by himself. He has a residence just south of the court square.
By nature a man who loves his friends and always generous and charitable, he has delighted to contribute to their comfort and welfare. But it took the war to arouse to full measure that high degree of doing for others. When his beloved country of adoption was threatened with a war of conquest and destruction, he was too old to shoulder a gun and march to the front, but he has enlisted with all his worldly goods to fight in the forefront until victory is ours.
The Beacon-News and its editor have claimed his intimate friendship ever since he came here as a boy and the editor was a boy. Now, it is our pride and privilege to present our life long friend as America’s premier patriot in civilian life, and we challenge the whole nation to equal his work for the preservation of democracy and our way of living. We give to you Joseph Caspari as the best and noblest in the war effort in Richland Parish, the State of Louisiana and the United States of America.The Richland Beacon-News
12 Dec 1942, Sat • Page 3
Obituary of Joe Caspari, ca., 1941
Joseph Caspari Dies In Vicksburg Sanitarium
Joseph Caspari, 72, retired merchant and businessman of Rayville, died in Mercy Hospital, Vicksburg, Miss., last Tuesday morning at 5:20 o’clock, following a cerebral hemorrhage of two days before. He entered the hospital on Sunday as a critically ill man who had become suddenly sick, and after a few hours became the victim of a stroke from which he failed to rally.
Joseph Caspari was born in Alsace, Lorraine, removed to Paris, France, where he lived several years during his youth, and at the age of twenty- one years came to America. He lived a short time in New Orleans, and soon came to Rayville to be employed by Chas. Titche Co, Ltd, where he remained for a number of years until he entered business for himself. He was a successful merchant and business man and accumulated quite a deal of this world’s goods, and a few years ago sold his business and farms and all other property except his home, and retired from business.
He never married, and lived alone in his home here. Joe Caspari, as he was intimately known to a large number of friends and admirers in this section of the state, lived for half a century among us, and was respected for his charity and benevolence. He contributed much of his wealth to the comfort and happiness of those who came within the scope of his friendship.
But it was his war effort that brought out the best in his noble nature. He made larger contributions to the winning of the war, than any citizen in this parish, and although modest in his war work, it became known far and wide of his great liberality and continued donations and contributions to the winning of the war.
He felt so keenly and profoundly a sense of gratitude to his adopted country that had enabled him to gain much success and happiness in life, that he reciprocated during the war with a generosity that was amazingly bountiful and beautiful to witness. No cause, or drive, came that he did not lend a greater aid financially than anyone else.
His personal aid and comfort to the individual men of the service was a full time job with him since he retired from active business. No man in the armed forces ever suffered for lack of aid in Rayville during the time of the war, if Joe Caspari could contact him. This writer, who knew Joe Caspari intimately since he was a young man and we were a boy, cherishes many pleasant memories of our friendly associations, as does a number of others of our time, and we feel a deep personal sorrow in the passing of our old friend, who contributed so bounteously to the happiness of those about him.
The funeral was held Wednesday morning at 10:30 o’clock in the Mulhearn Funeral Home of Rayville, with Rabbi F. K. Hirsch, of Monroe, officiating. The interment was in the Rayville Masonic Cemetery. Pallbearers were: Horace Mangham, C. W. Gaines, W. L. Jackson, Dr. H. C. Chambers, Allen Cook and K. E. Batman. He is survived by a half-brother, Mr. Lazarre Caspari, Monroe; a niece, Mrs. James Keller, Shreveport; and nephew, Jacques Caspari, Shreveport; also one other niece. Sam Caspari, a brother, died in Shreveport on February 22nd.The Richland Beacon-News
15 Mar 1947, Sat • Page 1