After a lifetime of faithful service, Thomas (Tom) Allen Casperson was called home on November 29, 2020, by the Lord he loyally served. Surrounded by the family Tom cherished, this ended a courageous two-and-a-half-year battle with lung cancer that saw him reflect the Glory of God throughout its trials.
Tom was born in Escanaba, Michigan on July 20, 1959 to Hubert and Shirley (Drage) Casperson. He married the former Diane Christiansen on June 5, 1982.
Tom graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1977. As a youth he started a labor of love - working with his father and grandfather in the family business, Casperson & Sons Logging. This work gave him a chance to work alongside his uncles Donald and Marvin, and his cousins. Tom loved to recount that he “drove” his first log truck, a Mack of course, at age 11 when he was barely able to reach the pedals. Those Mack log trucks forged his work ethic and took Tom through the most remote and beautiful spots in the Upper Peninsula, helping to shape his love for all corners of the U.P. More importantly, those travels led to an understanding that being a steward is a biblical term, which imposes a duty on us to treat the natural resources with which we are blessed responsibly and with respect.
When his father became ill, Tom then bought the interests of Casperson & Sons Logging in 1990. He then managed all aspects of the small business, growing it in the process. Despite the change in direction his career would unexpectedly take in 2002, and the success that followed, Tom often affirmed that his greatest professional accomplishment was following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in becoming the third generation to own and operate the family business.
In 2002, the Lord made it apparent that he had a different plan for Tom. Following a fatal accident involving a log truck industry colleague, Tom was determined to help implement safety measures for the industry so this tragedy would not repeat itself. One of those safety measures was for what is now known as the “crib trailer.” At that time, the State would not license the design. A State employee went so far as to say to Tom “if you don’t like the law, you should change it.” After much consultation with both his wife and Pastor Robert Derheim on whether this was the Lord’s will, Tom did just that and ran for the Michigan House of Representatives. In November 2002, he won the election in what a Lansing political paper described as “one of the greatest upsets in modern Michigan political history.” On August 13, 2003, only eight months after being sworn into office, Tom made good on his first legislative priority with the passage of House Bill 4154, known as Shayla’s Law, after the infant who was killed in that tragic accident.
The first public act he authored was followed by an incredible 117 of his additional bills that were passed into law during the 14 years that Tom served the Upper Peninsula - six years as the State Representative for the 108th District and eight years as State Senator, when he was elected in 2010 as the first Republican to represent the 38th Senate District.
Any success Tom enjoyed was a reflection of the gifts with which he was endowed for this calling: the sincerity to forge relationships, the patience to listen to understand and empathize, the tireless work ethic of a laborer, the modesty to remain mindful of the privilege of the position, and an incredible passion for the Upper Peninsula, its people and institutions, which was proudly at the heart of all his efforts.
As was embodied in his first campaign theme, Tom was simply, “A working man working for you.” It’s why of all the legislative awards he received and the scores of tributes that have been offered upon his passing, the tribute of which he would be most proud simply said, “Tom was an extraordinary ordinary man.”
There is no question that in his heart, Tom was an ordinary man who simply sought to be known as a servant leader that honored the two greatest Commandments in his service: To love God and to love people.
Tom’s love for God and for people was reflected in his character in many ways, including his delight in holding a baby (especially his own children, his grandchildren and his infant office “interns”), the song that was perpetually in his heart, which often saw him offer an Elvis impression, his love to laugh and to tease, his love to debate over dinner, including the regular unexpected dinner guest with whom he would surprise his wife, and his desire to always, always offer a helping hand.
Left to treasure his life and memory are his wife, Diane, and their four children, Ashley (Chan) Wakefield of Okemos, Tom Jr. (Renee Smith) Casperson of Cadillac, Hillary (Jason) Ebbesen of Rapid River, and Dane (Brittany Bruce) Casperson of Grand Rapids; as well as five grandchildren who brought him such joy, Oaklyn (8), Bryn (5), and Hugh (3) Wakefield, Gabe Casperson (4), and Baby (Dane and Brittany) Casperson due in March of 2021.
Additionally, Tom leaves behind his mother, Shirley; two sisters, Cindy Charbonneau and Eva Casperson (Judi Skradski); his mother-in-law, Marilyn Christiansen; two “brothers,” Tom Carlson and Marty Fittante; many aunts and uncles, and a large church and political family.
Tom was preceded in death by his father, Hubert; and his father-in-law, Oliver (Chris) Christiansen.
On December 2, 2020, the same day that State flags were ordered to fly at half-mast in Tom’s honor, the family held a private funeral service to offer praise for the gift of Tom’s life with pastors Robert Derheim and Jason Janich officiating at the New Life Church in Escanaba - a church that Tom not only served in many capacities, but helped build and from which he preached on occasion, including this past Father’s Day when he offered a sermon on the virtue of family, a lesson which his children lovingly reflected in caring for him at home during his final hours.
Following the funeral service, Tom was laid to eternal rest at the Garden of Rest Cemetery in Wells, Michigan.
The Casperson family would like extend a public invitation to a Memorial Celebration honoring Tom Casperson from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (EST), Saturday, June 5, 2021 at the Delta County Chamber of Commerce in Escanaba. A program honoring Tom will begin at 5:00 p.m. (EST). Light food and refreshments will be served as Tom’s life and service are remembered and celebrated.
A Memorial Fund has been established in the name of Tom Casperson to benefit the Northern Michigan University Truck Driving School. Checks in his honor should be made out to the NMU Foundation, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette MI 49855.
Messages of condolence may be directed to the family in care of 2105 22nd Avenue South, Escanaba, Michigan 49829.
Well done good and faithful servant.
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