Bob Bjorn finds the story of his late uncle, Verdun Casselman, inspiring. A World War II veteran, Casselman never went to school beyond grade seven, yet he went on to write the book Ties to Water: The History of Bull River in the East Kootenay.
“He was able to interview a lot of the people who had worked in the area,” Bob said. “Within four or five years after that, there weren’t any of them left, but their history was documented.”
After his death, Verdun’s neighbours worked together to establish the Verdun Casselman Memorial Scholarship at College of the Rockies, a scholarship Bjorn believes was the first endowed fund at the College.
The Verdun Casselman scholarship is awarded to a College of the Rockies student who is furthering his or her studies as a full-time student in the field of agriculture, history, or journalism, all passions of Casselman who was a rancher for many years. The award has also been given to rural students who have an agricultural background but who are studying in other fields.
In an effort to continue to support the scholarship, Bob ordered a new printing of his Ties to Water. For every book he sells, he gives five dollars back to the scholarship, in addition to personal donations he makes regularly.
It is important to Bob that he continue to support his late uncle’s legacy. He also feels it is important to support the region’s post-secondary institution.
“Without an education, you don’t have much,” he said. “Having College of the Rockies in the community brings and aura of excitement. There are a lot of young people who are enthusiastic about getting started in their lives and that excitement ripples out into the community.”
As an East Kootenay local whose two sons both attended College of the Rockies, Bob is proud to continue to support his local College, and young people in the region looking to pursue an education.
“If we can support local kids getting a leg up, that’s good,” he said. “In the end it benefits all of us to see our young people succeed.”