“I have a death sentence,” says Chris Casebeer while unbuttoning the top of his shirt to show me the catheter that delivers chemotherapy into his chest. Chris has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and a few months ago, he felt defeated.
“I’d sit on the couch watching MSNBC, until one day I’d had enough,” explains Chris, who decided to get back to work, and get back to living. “I focus on today as best as I can,” he tells me, and himself. “Be in the here now.”
Chris came to UCSB in 1964, and was a member of the volleyball team that won the 1969 national college championships. Athletics has always played a meaningful role in his life. “It gives you life lessons on how to deal with adversity and loss,” he said. “If you lose a match, you get an opportunity to play again.”
After college, Chris worked in the moving and storage business, first for Lyons on Cota Street and then Beacon’s. “Death, divorce, and moving are the three emotional rollercoasters,” he believes.
In 1975, he met David Pitts of Pitts & Bachman Realtors, who became a mentor. In 1980, Chris opened his own firm, Casebeer & Company, over the Chase Bar & Grill at 1012 State Street. In 1993, the office moved to 1335 State Street, where it still operates today.
Chris has served as president of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and the Santa Barbara City College Adult Education Advisory Committee and co-founded Men Against Domestic Violence. He’s volunteered on the boards of Domestic Violence Solutions, Victoria Theatre Community House, Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, and the UCSB Athletic Directors Advisory Committee. In 2005, Chris received the R.F. MacFarland Memorial Trophy from the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table for his contributions to youth athletics.
“I’m a helping person, but now I have to look after myself,” he tells me. But a few moments later as we bid adieu, he asks me, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
This amazing athlete and fighter answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your current state of mind?
Foggy at times and very clear at others. My health challenges have given me the gift of living in the present. What happened to me in the past is the past and what will be in the future will be. I end up with less stress staying right here right now.
What is your motto?
Never Give Up. Phil Womble has been an inspiration for me in my life. He never ever gives up. Soon he will turn 80 with health issues that have left most people in their graves at an early age. Not Phil. Not me.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing at all. I will take myself just the way I am.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Open and friendly. I never knew I was that way until in junior high school, when I was voted “most friendly” in the class. I was so surprised because I thought that was how everyone acted. Saying hello, giving a smile and a hug are just what everyone does.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Some people will recognize the name Leo Buscaglia. Leo was my speech therapist when I was four years old. He did a great job for me, just as he did for many others. He went on to teach at USC and was instrumental in doing KCET’s first promotional series on love. If you want to know more about a person who influenced thousands of people with his lectures on love, then buy one of his inspiring books. Chaucer’s has them and certainly Amazon.
What is your most treasured possession?
Easily is my garden. My mom gave me the gift of gardening. In the 1950s, there were few nurseries like we have today. She would cultivate cuttings from friends and share them with other friends. It showed me that sharing a living thing brings smiles to the recipient. Can’t beat that.
What do you like about your job?
Being a Realtor, I never know one day to the next what I will be doing. The phone rings and a brand new opportunity springs forward. Also I am in the business of helping people achieve their dreams. Home ownership is one of the most taxing and thrilling experiences one can have, and being a part of that process is an honor for me.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting in the backyard on a warm sunny day, with Buena Vista Social Club tunes playing in the background. Not a care in the world and the landscape continues to change.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing things bother me a lot. When I was 12 years old, I delivered 76 copies of the Pasadena StarNews in my neighborhood. Each month I collected $1.25 from each subscriber. When I lost my wallet it was filled with one dollar bills, too many to forget and too many to remember. I now carry my wallet in my front pocket.
Who do you most admire?
My wife, Teriana, and her daughter, Maripaula. They left Cuba to came to Santa Barbara in 2004, each with a suitcase in hand and the hope of a different life. Teriana saw an opportunity for us to build a life together. Maripaula at age 16 came to be with her mom. Together we have lived that storybook dream that. What an act of faith they both made and now how fortunate I am that they took the risk.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Exotic plants. I never saw a plant I did not want. The rarer, stranger, and more obscure the plant the better. I love how plants keep on giving year after year.
What is the quality you most like in people?
I really appreciate those who I can count on. I have found that honesty and integrity are building blocks to good relationships.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
When I see a person putting another person down to elevate themselves. That does it for me. Adios.
What do you most value in friends?
Being able to count on them when I may need them the most.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Nothing comes to mind so there must be a bunch.
Which talent would you most like to have?
The talent to speak in public and not choke is something I have strived for. I have benefited greatly from White Hatters Ovation Club of Toast Masters Santa Barbara, which gave me great opportunities to improve my presentation skills. Still a work in progress.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to be?
I have several achievements which are significant for me. Graduating from UCSB comes to mind. I was never a great student, but certainly am a hard worker. I never gave up when I could have. Another is creating a real estate sales career that has spanned over 40 years. Certainly helping to raise Jeremy and Charlotte ranks right up there too. Also watching my step daughters Celeste and Maripaula soar through their lives too.
Where would you most like to live?
My dream is live in a shack on the oceanfront, where I could walk out to a great boogie boarding break. That would be a dream come true.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Kids make me laugh a lot. The innocence of young kids allows to fully enjoy the moment. They don’t hold back. They don’t care a bit about correctness. Too many adults want their kids to grow up too soon. I say let them be as long as they want.
On what occasion do you lie?
When asked, “How are you?”