John Evans Kassner, a longtime builder-developer in Wisconsin and former president of both the Wisconsin Builders Association and the Brown County HBA, passed away peacefully on Sept. 29, 2022, at the age of 97.
Throughout a career that spanned more than 50 years in residential construction, Kassner received numerous awards from his state and local associations, including the Cornerstone Builder in 1982, Builder of the Year in 1990 and Life Senior Membership in 2021.
Kassner was well known throughout the industry after having served in many leadership roles at all levels within the Federation. In recognition for his dedicated service, Kassner became an NAHB Senior Life Director by the time he retired in 2015.
“Mr. Kassner was a steadfast, longtime leader within our association,” said Brad Boycks, executive director of the Wisconsin Builders Association. “He was instrumental in advancing the housing industry and was dedicated to advocating for pro-housing issues. He will certainly be missed by all those who had the opportunity know him and work with him.”
In the early stage of his career, Kassner quickly developed a reputation as a natural born salesman. He initially worked as a door-to-door vacuum salesman before turning his sights toward real estate. It wasn’t long before he opened his own real estate brokerage company. By the mid-1960s, he was developing land for numerous residential subdivisions and large multifamily projects throughout the state.
As a veteran of World War II, Kassner exemplified bravery and dedication. Kassner enlisted in the Army during his senior year of high school and volunteered as a paratrooper in the heralded 101st Airborne Division. On the eve of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, he was among those who parachuted into France behind German lines to secure strategic positions just prior to the Allied invasion.
Kassner also fought in many other battles throughout the war, including the infamous Siege of Bastogne. He was wounded on several occasions and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.
Near the end of the war, while medically rehabilitating from one of his wounds in London, England, he met “Lillian Joan Brown,” whom he eventually married. The couple would ultimately raise five children, including four boys and a daughter.
Kassner was preceded in death by his wife, Joan, in 2003. He is survived by his five children.