A retrospective on the life of my great grandfather, William Kastning
When I was a child, I made regular visits to rural Delta, Colorado, where my great-grandfather, William Kastning, worked as a pastor and took care of my great-grandmother, who had suffered a stroke. His was the first loss I experienced in my life, when I was nine, and it was also the saddest one. He had been very nice to me and encouraged my musical talents. I later heard of his medical work in the Pacific theater of World War II.
I recently discovered that he had written an autobiography, called My Kirowa Journey (Kirowa is a Greek neologism meaning "the way of the Lord"). This page is dedicated to him and based on what he wrote in his book.
William Ray Kastning was born on July 12, 1920 to John Henry and Goldie Kastning in Pueblo, Colorado. In March 1929, the family moved to Cedaridge and went to Christian schools. He joined the Baptist Church there after hearing a moving hymn. He said that the most special times back then were on his camping trips to Grand Mesa. During school, his grades were mediocre (which is something he often regretted), but his test scores were high. Psychological tests showed him to be an introvert.
William lived through the Great Depression, but he never felt that his family was poor, since he lived on a farm and benefited from his family’s own food production. His religion also helped him get through those years.
By the age of 12, William became sure that he was destined to become a minister in the church. Several years later, in 1939, William took an oath that he would devote his life to serving God. In 1941, his friend Sid told him that he was going to serve in the ministry, and he was fully convinced to join. It was around that time that Kastning met the love of his life, Mary Ann. William proposed to her in 1942, but was unable to marry her because he couldn’t support a wife and because he was drafted into World War II.
William was drafted into the Navy around 1942, where he became a medic and served in a Naval Hospital in Massachusetts. He was transferred later to the hospital at a naval base in Newfoundland, then to Rhode Island where he performed first aid for a detachment building test models of aircraft carriers. Later, his unit became a battalion, and landed in Saipan, Japan, where William treated the victims of a bombing raid, and then to Okinawa. When the war ended, William took a train across Japan, which passed through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There, he saw the devastation caused by US bombings.
Looking back on his years in the war, he thought they were good years, but he felt lonely without the friends he had always known. One of his great regrets was not actively campaining to set up a Christian organization there.
As soon as William returned from the Pacific theater, he made a joyous call to Mary Ann, in which he promised to come home and bring a bouquet of flowers. He then set the date of his wedding - March 11, 1946. Looking back on his years in the war, he thought they were good years, but he felt lonely without the friends he had always known. William started working in the ministry, and him and Mary Ann worked together as counselors at several Christian summer camps until 1960.
Afterwards, he served as a pastor for 18 months in a church in southwest Kansas. During that time he missed the mountains of Colorado and eventually he moved back, down to Trinidad, Colorado to serve in their Baptist Church. After three years there, he was looking for someone to become the Camp Director for the Colorado Baptist Convention and came to believe that he was the only qualified person to take the job. This expanded into a national organization, which is when he quit to become a pastor in Wyoming.
In the 1980s, William moved to Eckert, Colorado. He served in the Delta First Baptist Church for several decades, first as a deacon and then as the pastor.
William Ray Kastning enjoyed life to the fullest and was strong until his death. He lived to the age of 93, and many in the family said it was because of his strength of spirit.
When he died, I remembered his wise and encouraging words that we exchanged every time we visited him. I even composed his requiem and played it at the funeral.
He is buried with is wife, Mary Ann, outside of Delta, Colorado.