Chris was a man who was big, bold, and full of love. Breaking social norms everywhere he went, Chris could not pass up the chance to strike up a conversation and connect with people. Some who’d met him only once described him as “that friendly guy.” He always had an art for cultivating friendships with people near and far, and never held back from sharing a big hug, a genuine smile, or an invitation to visit his home. Chris lived with a sense of abundance and possibility that is rare in this world, and all of us who knew and loved him are so much the better for it.
Chris Casebeer was born on September 16, 1946, to Julie and Arthur Casebeer in Altadena, California. Childhood with his older brother, Paul, was marked by summers in Laguna Beach visiting their grandparents and beginning a lifelong love of the beach and bodysurfing. As a teen, Chris learned to play volleyball from the lifeguards. College brought him to UC Santa Barbara.
He played on the indoor Gaucho volleyball team, which won the National Collegiate Championship in 1969, and became a member of the Sigma Pi fraternity. He forged a lifelong love of volleyball and many enduring friendships in those days. As a Gaucho, Chris was “all-in,” as he also proved to be with life after college. He was a hard worker and great teammate. He was greatly respected, even though he could be a bit goofy at times. Chris had an incredible ability to jump — his teammates and coach, Dennis Berg, thought it might have contributed to bouts of dizziness — but a knee injury kept him in the back row his senior year. Determination and a positive attitude allowed him to contribute significantly to that National Collegiate Championship victory. Once he moved on to the beach game, with Dan Berry and others, he became extremely proficient at “bump setting” before it was fashionable. That skill enabled him to make great strides and advance through the B, A, and AA rankings.
Chris’s love of the game led him to play competitively during the early days of beach volleyball, then for fun at La Conchita and with the Nooners at East Beach. And in recent years, he reveled in following his son Jeremy’s international professional volleyball career. Chris loved to say that he got his college degree at UCSB, and his graduate degree at East Beach. He shared his love of volleyball with his first wife, Vicki Johnson.
Chris enjoyed all sports and was an avid fan and supporter of the Gaucho men’s and women’s volleyball and basketball teams. He served as a president of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, always looking forward to the weekly luncheons at Harry’s Plaza Café, where he got to connect with young athletes. He also served on the board of the Special Olympics of Santa Barbara and the UCSB Athletics Director’s Advisory Committee.
Chris started his working life post-college with Lyons and then Bekins moving companies. He made a good impression on one of his customers, a prominent Santa Barbara Realtor, who encouraged him to change careers and join his firm. As a result, Chris obtained his real estate license in 1973 and quickly found his niche. He soon had an impressive portfolio of saIes at all levels in Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Goleta.
In 1980, Chris opened Casebeer & Company above Chase Restaurant on State Street. He later moved his office to the Arlington Theatre block, where his annual Solstice and Fiesta parties became the hottest invitations in town. Chris was president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors in 1993 and cofounded CASA magazine the same year. Throughout his 44 years in real estate, he made every client feel like royalty, whether they were buying or selling a small home or a Montecito estate. His clients became his friends, and his friends became his clients.
Starting in 1982, Chris’s family life blossomed during his 15-year marriage to Hallie Anderson, with whom he raised his stepdaughter, Celeste; their daughter, Charlotte; and Jeremy in their San Roque home. Chris strove to imbue his kids with his love of the outdoors and sports. These years were punctuated by long weekend days spent at the beach, Chris coaching the kids’ sports teams, and annual camping and mule-packing trips in the Sierra Nevada.
Chris’s connection to civic duty extended beyond sports and was emblematic of his wide-ranging and eclectic interests. He served on the Santa Barbara City College Adult Education Advisory Committee; cofounded Men Against Domestic Violence; served on the boards of Domestic Violence Solutions, Victoria Theater Community House, the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, and the Rental Housing Mediation Program; and was a commissioner for city Parks & Recreation.
In 1999, Chris traveled to Cuba, inspired by the movie Buena Vista Social Club. There he met his amor, Teriana Berriz. Married in 2004 in Santa Barbara, they shared a home and a rich life for 13 years, along with Teriana’s daughter, Maripaula. Cuba became a second home for Chris and spending New Year’s in Havana became a tradition. He traveled the island and made friends everywhere he went.
After his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer in 2015, Chris’s strength and indomitable spirit helped him seek out the best treatment possible; he enjoyed two and a half more years of travel, and treasured time with family. On September 2, 2017, Chris passed away sitting on his front porch, waiting to meet friends for coffee, overlooking his beloved tropical garden in Santa Barbara.
Chris leaves behind his wife, Teriana Berriz; two children, Charlotte Bodnar and Jeremy Casebeer; his stepdaughters, Celeste Hoffpauir and Maripaula Valdes-Berriz; his grandchildren, Millie and Delilah Bodnar, Joaquim Salgado-Casebeer, and Aurora Rehor; and a vast community of friends, all of whom Chris considered family.
Chris’s community of friends and family is invited to a memorial celebration of his life at Godric Grove in Elings Park on October 8 at 2 p.m. His memorial website can be visited at forevermissed.com/chriscasebeer/.