Ralph Anthony Casazza
May 12, 1926
April 4, 2013
Ralph Anthony Casazza was born on May 12, 1926 in Reno to Rena K. (Lagamarsino) and Anthony T. Casazza. He peacefully passed away at home, surrounded by his loving family, on April 4. Ralph was the grandson of Italian immigrants who came to northern Nevada in the late 1870's. His parents operated a 140-acre ranch on the outskirts of Reno, part of which is now the site of Shoppers Square. He attended local schools and graduated from Reno High School in 1946. Although his father was a rancher Ralph had a desire to be an architect from his very early years. He attended UNR for a year, but his natural talent for design enabled him to set up a thriving architectural practice. He received Nevada architectural license #37 when architect licensing first began in the state in 1949.
One of his first projects was the Reno Contemporary House, which attracted a great deal of attention, and later was reproduced for a client in Las Vegas. In 1951, He was drafted by the United States Army where he served for two years as Sergeant. Fourteen months of his service were spent in Korea with the 439th Construction Battalion of the Corps of Army Engineers. During that time, he worked on the redesign of roads, bridges and buildings destroyed during combat, as well as assisting in the design of churches. In addition, while serving, he appealed to the Radius Club back home in Reno to gather clothing for orphans and the poor. He became a one-man relief agency in Korea distributing clothing to the homeless and needy.
In 1950, before his stint in the army, Ralph formed a partnership with E. Keith Lockard, a well-known Nevada and California architect and engineer. The firm, Lockard and Casazza developed a very successful practice. They were joined by Edward S. Parsons, another prominent Reno architect, and Peter G. Guisti, a civil engineer, in the design of the original Centennial Coliseum, now a part the Reno/Sparks Convention Center. They also collaborated on many military and federal projects in Nevada and California.
The death of Mr. Lockard brought the partnership of Ralph and Carroll G. Peetz in the firm Casazza, Peetz and Assoc. His son, Thomas, joined the firm in 1978 after his graduation from the University of Idaho.
Ralph was well known for his insistence on excellence in design and construction and for demanding that money be spent wisely with proper use of materials for a lasting quality. Many clients sought his services when undertaking complex projects including state and local government agencies. Over the years, Ralph and his firm specialized in the design of public properties, shopping centers, jails, schools, public buildings, banks, industrial facilities, casinos, postal buildings and churches.
Ralph designed such well known Reno edifices as the Bruce Thompson Federal Courthouse and the Clifton Young United States Courthouse and Federal Building, Reno's main post office, the Barbara Vucanovich U.S. post office was also designed by Ralph. Churches designed by Ralph included St. Therese Church of the Little Flower and school, Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church and Newman Center and the original Sparks United Methodist Church. The Washoe County administrative complex on Ninth and Wells was master planned by Ralph and his firm and the first 4 phases of buildings were designed by him. He designed schools in Nye, Churchill and Washoe counties including Anderson Elementary, the Glenn Hare Center, and the Reno High Alumni Center. Other public facilities he designed include the Wingfield Park Amphitheater, the Reno/Tahoe Airport baggage claim and the Dini-Townsend in-patient psychiatric hospital at the Northern Nevada Mental Health campus.
Ralph and his firm designed a number of buildings at the University of Nevada including Lawlor Events Center, the Physical Science Complex, an addition to the Jot Travis Student Union, now the Davidson Center, The Laxalt Mineral Research Center, the William Raggio College of Education and a rehabilitation of the Mackay School of Mines building. The rehabilitation included a base isolation system to protect from earthquake damage. The building was only the second historic structure to incorporate base isolation in the U.S.
Private buildings that Ralph designed include the Security (now U.S.) Bank Building along with numerous other banking facilities and Shoppers Square shopping center.
In 1964 Ralph along with his parents and sisters opened Shoppers Square, One of the first retail centers of its kind in the area, at the corner of So. Virginia St. and E. Plumb Ln. Shoppers Square helped pave the way for the steady march of development southward down South Virginia St. Anchored initially by Skaggs Drug Center and Mayfair Market, Shoppers Square has undergone a number of renovations and expansions over the years, with its clean modern look and more than 50 stores, Shoppers Square has managed to survive the economic storms throughout its 49 years of existence, due to the family and its hands on business people who are a big part of the community.
Ralph's architectural firm received several awards, including the American Institute of Architects Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture, presented for the Washoe County Administrative center and the Lawlor Events Center. Ralph himself was honored with the Bradley P. Kidder Award from the Western Mountain Region of the American Institute of Architects for his service to the region and in 2000 the American Institute of Architects Nevada awarded him the Silver Medal for his service to the profession. This is the highest honor an architect in the state of Nevada can achieve.
Ralph was very active in civic affairs serving on the State Fire Marshall Advisory Board, the Public Advisory Panel on Architectural Services for the General Services Administration, the AIA National Judicial Advocate Committee, the AIA National Codes Committee, the Regional Transportation Committee, and the City of Reno Citizen's Traffic Advisory Committee. He also served on the Salvation Army Advisory Board for more than ten years and was named Man-of-the-Year while serving on the board. He was the past president of the northern Nevada Chapter, AIA and president of the AIA Nevada. He has been a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers since 1957. He has been active with the Reno Chamber of commerce and served as Chairman of Downtown Redevelopment committee in 1961. He was a member of the Elks Lodge 597, Prospectors Club, Knights of Columbus and the Italian Benevolence Society.
Casazza Retired from Architecture in March of 1999 when his firm merged with HMC Architects where until recently his son Tom carried on his legacy.
In his retirement he devoted his time managing his family owned shopping center, where he worked literally up until his final days.
Ralph married the love of his life Eileen in 1954 after meeting her at a picnic at Lake Tahoe where it was love at first sight. They celebrated 59 years together February 14. Together they raised 6 children and have enjoyed the bustling lives of their 13 beautiful grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents, Anthony and Rena Casazza and his sister Blanche Royle. Ralph is survived by his wife Eileen, his sister Alice (Harold) Jacobson, children Tom (Maggie) Casazza, Rick (Loretta) Casazza, Kathryn (John) Dudley, Marianne (William) Goltsos, Susan Casazza , Elizabeth (Mark) Liske and grandchildren Geoffrey, Christopher, Anthony, Matthew, Zachary, Cole, Hannah, Scott, Nicholas, Emily, Melissa, Andrew and Aiden.
The Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday April 9th, 2013 at Ross, Burke and Knobel on Kietzke Lane from 5:00pm to 8:00pm with the Rosary at 7:00pm. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, April 10th at 10:00am at St. Therese Church of the Little Flower, with entombment to follow at Mountain View Cemetery.
In memory of Ralph donations can be made in his name to the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association or St. Therese Church of the Little Flower.
Published in the Reno Journal-Gazette and Mason Valley News from Apr. 7 to Apr. 10, 2013.