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Justus J. Castleberry

Decorated WWII vet, 57-year Claremont resident, married for 71 years

Fifty-seven year Claremont resident Justus J. Castleberry, a warm and outgoing person whose kindness towards others made everyone around him feel special, his family shared, died peacefully on July 12 with his daughters and longtime caregiver by his side. He was just one month shy of his 98th birthday.  

A native Californian, “Jut,” as he was known by family and friends, was born August 17, 1921 on his parent’s Clarence and Fanny Castleberry’s small farm in Tipton, California.

The family, which included three children, moved to Porterville, California by the time Jut started grade school. He worked along with his brother, Lloyd, at their parent’s grocery store during their school years.

After graduating from high school, he worked for the War Department (now the Defense Department) for two years. During World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he was promoted to first sergeant. He spent two and-a-half years stationed in England, Egypt, Iran, Russia and France as an aircraft maintenance supervisor, often servicing ally aircraft behind enemy lines. While serving his country during World War II, he received the Rhineland, Central European and Ardennes campaign medals and the Russian Patriotic Commemorative medal for assisting with the shuttle bombing campaign in 1944, with the Russians against the Nazis 60 miles behind the Russian front lines.

After the war, Mr. Castleberry moved to Pomona, where he attended Mt. San Antonio College. He graduated with an associate’s degree in business with the school’s first graduating class in 1947. It was there that he met his future wife, Martha, a native of Pomona. They married in Pomona in 1948.

He and Lloyd became business partners during the 1950s while Mr. Castleberry was enrolled at Pomona College and his brother asked him to come help out with his tile company. That venture would later grow into Lloyd’s Furniture, Appliances and Building Materials on Holt Avenue in Montclair, of which they were co-owners. They also owned Lloyd’s Business and Industrial Park. They were one of the first mass merchants in the area at that time. 

He and Mrs. Castleberry made their home in Claremont for more than 57 years. The couple raised their two daughters, Gail and Sandra in the City of Trees. They moved to Mt. San Antonio Gardens retirement community in 2005, where Mr. Castleberry lived until his death. 

He loved the outdoors and was an avid golfer, playing well into his nineties. He also enjoyed playing and watching tennis with Mrs. Castleberry. The couple were members of the Claremont Tennis Club, now the Claremont Club, during the 1970s and ‘80s. The two also enjoyed spending many happy years at their San Clemente condo overlooking Califia Beach.

Travel was also an enjoyable pastime for the Castleberrys. During their married years, they took many trips worldwide and visited many countries.

Mr. Castleberry is survived by his wife of 71 years, Martha, of Claremont; daughters, Gail Smith of San Juan Capistrano, and Sandii Daigh of Idyllwild; granddaughters, Mackenzie Smith of New York City, and Callan Smith of San Diego; and eight nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his son, Craig; brother, Lloyd; sister, Stella; and sons-in-law, Ronald Daigh and Biff Smith.

“’I’ve had a good run,’ is what Jut would often tell his friends and family in his later years,” his family shared. “He was a man who highly valued family ties and the importance of relationships, reiterating this throughout the years. He left a lasting impression on many people, and will truly be missed.”

A celebration of life will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 10 in the Gallery Room at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, 900 Harrison Ave., Pomona.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to VNA Hospice and Palliative Care of Southern California at vnasocal.org/donate-to-vna, or by check to P.O. Box 908, Claremont,  CA 91711.