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James Kasalajtis

James Kasalajtis

James William Kasalajtis

James Kasalajtis died on April 12, 2017, at his home in Hendersonville, NC. He was born on September 26, 1950, in Kenosha, WI, to Chester and Arlene Kasalajtis. He attended St. Mark elementary and St. Joseph high. At St. Joe’s senior graduation, the speaker said, “Forget this speech and remember this song: To Dream the Impossible Dream.”

He went to Madison Technical College to study woodworking but soon went to Minnesota State College Southeast at Red Wing, to learn the art and craft of making and repairing guitars, lutes, violins, and other stringed instruments. For the rest of his life, he would say with pride, “I am a luthier.” Having chosen that career, he didn’t always find it an easy one to have, encountering difficulties typical of small businesses. He kept looking for the ideal spot, perhaps an Impossible Dream. When interviewed in 1994, while in Hendersonville, NC, he said, “I’ve moved around a lot. I lived in Saluda many years ago, but I’ve lived in a lot of places since.” He had set up shop in Madison, WI, to make and repair instruments, but the owner of the building sold it and Jim couldn’t find another place he could afford.

In Saluda, he worked at Top of the Morning Music as luthier and demonstrator. He could play any stringed instrument and demonstrate its sound for a customer. When in North Carolina, he noted an uptick in dulcimer work. “There’s a story with every instrument and that’s what I love, hearing the stories and working on old instruments that have a lot of history.”

But the “moving around” continued. He spent time in Ohio, Nova Scotia and New Mexico; California, Colorado, and Idaho; and occasionally followed a lady to where she might go. A wandering luthier.

His many friends remember Jim as a generous soul, always willing to help out, well-endowed with his Irish heritage gift of gab, appreciative of a good brew, more disposed to giving advice than taking it, and capable of responding to the injustice of a thing with a robust, world-class rant.

Jim was preceded in death by his sister Jean, his brother Robert and his parents. He is survived by three siblings, R.J. Kasalajtis of Whitefish Bay, WI; Mary Petit, and John Kasalajtis, both of Kenosha; many nieces and nephews; his Stacy cousins James, Patrick, Susan; special cousin Elisa River Stacy Nelson of New Mexico; Ilene Morton and Rick Mullins of Hendersonville, and many other good friends.

A potluck supper in celebration of Jim’s life will take place on Thursday, April 20, at Southern Appalachian Brewery, 822 Locust Street in downtown Hendersonville, at 6 P.M. Funeral arrangements are by Jacksons Funeral Service in Hendersonville.