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Special fund created to help local veteran organizations

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    BREVARD, N.C. (WLOS) — The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas presented four local veterans organizations with checks from the Toni Lee Casciato Memorial Fund on Wednesday morning on the lawn of the historical courthouse in Brevard.

Museum curator Emmett Casciato gave the checks in honor of his late wife, Toni Lee Casciato, who passed away in May. Casciato said supporters of the museum immediately began mailing in sympathy cards containing donations in Toni Casciato’s name. Emmett Casciato and his daughter, Abby Moore, along with the board members of the museum created the memorial fund to pass those donations along to local veterans organizations, helping veterans in need.

“She was a dedicated school teacher for 40 years,” Casciato said. “She loves our country, she loves our flag, and I think the most important thing is she just loved to be a part of our veterans organizations and wants to keep them going.”

Howard “Sarge” Thiel, commander of the Transylvania County Honor Guard, accepted a donation to the Honor Guard. Frank Duckworth accepted a gift to the Brevard American Legion Post, and John Rogers accepted a gift to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Jeff Miller, co-founder of the National Honor Flight Network, accepted a donation to Blue Ridge Honor Flight, the local chapter of the network.

Miller had a message for all the veterans in attendance.

“What we do is make sure that people remember the service that was given to them by folks like you,” Miller said. “You are not forgotten, you are not gone and Toni is never gone.”

Nicknamed the “First Lady of the Museum” by the board of directors, Toni Casciato supported and encouraged her husband to accomplish his dream of creating a museum out of his personal collection of World War artifacts.

“Toni has always been my greatest supporter,” Casciato said. “She has always been a true patriot to this great nation.”

Emmett Casciato also collected mannequins to dress with his collection of antique military uniforms. Casciato said there were so many mannequins around the house that his wife named each one and would sometimes have conversations with them.

Board member Janis Allen remembered Casciato’s enthusiasm for her husband’s work.

“She brought creativity, tireless work, positive energy, a beautiful smile and a joyful laugh to the museum and everywhere she went,” Allen said.

Casciato was a dedicated school teacher for forty years and she added a kids activity section to the museum with fun materials that taught kids about our nation’s history.

Mr. Casciato and Mrs. Moore plan to expand the Toni Lee Casciato memorial fund to award scholarships to graduating cadets from the Transylvania County Marine Corps JROTC program and other veterans groups across North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond.

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