Some stories take a lifetime to write. This is one of them.
If ever there was a man who could assemble and direct a band of misfits for the great cause of truth, it was Donald F. Cashmore. Born August 15, 1946 and died May 23, 2011.
He was a character, a man of courage, local fame, honor and intelligence, a Vietnam veteran of sound mind and failing body, a clown, a card, a crank and customer of life to the fullest experience.
People called him “Cash”.
He owned and operated “Cash’s The Little Shoppe of Bait” on the Wolf River at New London’s Riverside Park. Three hundred sixty-three days of the year, 12 hours or more a day, for 17 years he opened the sign of that little shop, whether he felt like it or not.
Cash was committed to his community.
Many of us took him for granted until he died recently, due to complications of heart surgery..
Rev. Casey Schuler, a chaplain for ThedaCare, very respectfully gave Cash his last rights at his beside in the hospital, with his loving sister Joanne and special friend Julie Blohm holding his hand until his final moments around 4 a.m., May 23.
The entire community was shocked and saddened by the news.
Attorney Tom Johnson, a close friend of Cashmore’s and legal counsel for his family said at his funeral, “Any city has a limited number of local characters. When we lose one, our city becomes less colorful. Cash was one of New London’s characters.”
“He was authentic, unabashed, and complex. His opinions were not cloaked. There was no doubt about where he stood on issues as diverse as the Missing in Action and hunting mourning doves.”
Cashmore also put forth a great amount of his own personal resources and energy to stop the proposed Crandon Mine at the headwaters of the Wolf.
He rallied locals, distributed bumper stickers, made signs, talked to school students, testified before the State Senate, Supreme Court, and even bused a charter full of ‘river rats’ from New London to Shawano to a gathering of Wolf River supporters against the mine in a fundraising effort for the cause. Those in attendance may also recall one of his favorite bands, Burnt Toast and Jam, played that night.
He liked to dance barefoot in the rain.
He liked the sun and smiley faces, his plants, and he loved the flag with the devotion of a man who lost a friend in battle.
He didn’t talk about Vietnam much, or how his best friend and ‘body guard’ Otis was killed in action shortly after Cash’s tour was up. He was a United States Marine who considered himself lucky to have lived through the Tet Offensive.
Or lived at all for that matter.
He hated cobwebs on the fishing poles, and when people would ask him what date it was on any given day, he’d say look it up. Those were just a few of his pet peeves like people who drove and talked on the cell phone.
He didn’t take credit cards or debit cards; Cash was a man of real, printed currency.
He was a man of principal and stood his ground, despite the rest of us often caving in to society’s so-called justified changes. “Figure it out,” he would often say.
In his debates he would listen closely and wait to interject on a well-timed moment with his lead, usually something like… “That’s just it.”
Cashmore was a man of many colors, like the upside down rainbow, rare and unusual, often called the “smiley face” that appeared above his bait shop during his final military rights, Friday, May 27. It is possible that the banks of the Wolf River has not seen a funeral of this depth since the procession of Chief Waukechon in the late 1800’s.
That day many mourners noticed the mid day spectacle in the sky with awe, especially after hearing what Cash’s friend Julie Blohm had explained to folks at the funeral service just an hour before. Her speech gave significance to the smiley face, a trademark of Cash over the years.
Among very loved nieces and nephews, sisters and friends several stood up and told stories of Cash at the funeral home.
Blohm was one of the first to reminisce and explained the infamous smiley faces in, out and about Cash’s shop.
“…I have to tell you about one that makes me smile to this day,” said Blohm. “I don’t know why but I just can’t stand them (smiley faces). Perhaps it’s the perpetual smile that seems to be mocking you when you know life isn’t always that good and you’re having a particularly bad day.”
“Well Cash caught on to my distain for them and so our yearly exchange of ‘smiley faced’ things began…”
That’s just how Cash was.
If you gave him a crevasse he would crawl deep into your soul and roust things up you didn’t know were there, sometimes at your displeasure, but mostly for the good of us all. Cash could find the soft spot.
He was all about fishing, friendship and fun.
Blohm went on to explain. “…Cash was a man that cared more about people and peace than money and things. A quirky man dressed ‘comfortably’ and for himself. A man of great strength, courage and character,” said Blohm.
“A man that loved his country, served his country, and displayed the flag proudly. A man with so much more love to share. He was an icon in this city,” said Blohm.
“This city has so much potential and Cash tried to promote it in every way he could. The Little Shoppe of Bait stands guard on the riverbanks, waiting for its master to come home. There’s history in that little shop. When you walk in that front door, he’s there.”
The little shop at 1205 W. Wolf River Avenue was closed Friday, May 27 in Cash’s honor. Then. Following his wishes, was reopened at 6 a.m. the next morning as if nothing had ever happened.
God rest your smile Don Cashmore, and please Lord forgive us our disagreements.
In this writer’s best guess, Cash is somewhere assisting St. Peter, questioning people at the gate.
This story is to be continued. If you have a Cash story you’d like to share, email, email@example.com. or call John at 920-538-0007. Stories may be posted on our website at WaupacaNow.com and or may be included in future columns of the Waupaca County Post East.
If you would like to contribute to a memorial fund for Cash please contact Robert “Bob” Besaw at 920-982-5197, 210 E. Pine Street, New London, WI 54961.