When triplets Avery, Cash and Adyson Casteel were scouting colleges to attend, they came to the same conclusion: they wanted to attend Concordia University Irvine together.
“We were thrilled because, if we could have picked one, we would have picked CUI,” says Gary Casteel, the kids’ grandfather-father. “When we toured the campus, I talked with students and was like, ‘Wow.’ We had these great conversations. I looked at [my wife] Claudia and said, ‘Do you believe these kids?’ It says it all when you meet the students.”
Claudia Casteel agrees that CUI “has proven itself out” in the two-plus years since their triplets enrolled.
“It validates to us what a wonderful education they’re getting at Concordia,” Claudia says. “The school is directing their talent well. They are achieving great results.”
Gary and Claudia raised and legally adopted their triplet grandchildren after the kids’ mother, Alayne, passed away when they were young. Gary says they were blessed to have the privilege of raising the children.
“It’s been a miracle to be parents of two families like we have,” Gary says. “We have traveled with all our kids, always been very family-oriented, played with them, enjoyed them and taken trips together. We’ve had so much fun.”
Gary and Claudia own and operate The Shops at Heavenly Village at the popular ski resort in Lake Tahoe, close to where they have lived for 50 years. Their personal relationship goes back to the coastal city of Ukiah where the pair met in high school.
“I ran into Claudia at a locker. We were both late for class,” Gary remembers. “I thought, ‘Wow, what a looker!’ I never let her out of my sight after that.”
It validates to us what a wonderful education they’re getting at Concordia,” Claudia says. “The school is directing their talent well.
They married after graduating and went to work in the San Francisco Bay Area. There, Gary learned to appraise single-family homes, small apartment buildings and pre-construction projects, which became the key to his career.
“I thought, gosh, I love real estate,” he says, so he quit as manager of a savings and loan branch and went into the construction business in Lake Tahoe, a place he and Claudia adored. Back then, Tahoe had just a few hundred year-round residents and “didn’t even plow the streets,” Gary recalls.
“I thought I’d gone to the ends of the earth,” Claudia adds with a laugh. The Casteels considered it a great adventure and started building cabins and homes on speculation in Incline Village. Then they got into commercial real estate and bought a shopping center they operated for 35 years.
In 1988 they built California’s second factory outlet, in Lake Tahoe. All that time their home has been in Minden, twelve miles from Tahoe on the Nevada side. They had two children, Gary, Jr., and Alayne, the mother of the triplets.
“Alayne was an amazing woman, just astounding,” says Gary of his late daughter.
The Casteel Family
Alayne worked in education, teaching professionals to present themselves effectively through multiple types of communication. It was Alayne who got her parents involved in Lutheran education. When the triplets were two years old, Alayne secured spots for them in the best preschool in town, at the Lutheran church in Minden. After she went to be with the Lord, the Casteel family became involved in the church and the kids were baptized there.
“The loss of our daughter and having these babies brought it all home,” Gary says. “We had tried other churches and they didn’t fit us. We walked into this Lutheran church, met the pastor and it all made total sense. It’s been terrific.”
“It was just right,” Claudia adds. “It was where we were meant to be. We wanted to raise our children in church, and we felt like the Lutheran church met all of our needs and had an absolutely fantastic pastor.”
From that point on, the family has strongly supported Lutheran education and ministry in and around Lake Tahoe, including Bethlehem Lutheran middle school in Carson City and Sierra Lutheran High School in Minden, schools the triplets attended. (The triplets have been in Lutheran education from preschool through college.) In the past two years, the Casteels have also engaged with CUI as part of their broader goal of supporting Lutheran education.
Gary and Claudia’s main business now is The Shops at Heavenly Village, a retail center with an ice rink, a cinema and dozens of shops. The Casteels developed and own the center, and son Gary, Jr., left his own career to manage it with them.
“That was our crown jewel,” Gary says. “Several million people a year go through the Village.”
The family also loves hot rods, and at a young age the triplets also got involved in the family hobby. Gary bought a custom car from renowned hot-rodder Boyd Coddington in Anaheim. The connection led the triplets to appear on multiple episodes of the Discovery Channel’s “American Hot Rod” series. They helped build a 1936 Ford and a 1959 Corvette.
“While Gary and I could chat about muscle cars for days, the passion the Casteels have for our mission is an awesome thing to see. They have been supportive of multiple projects across campus and they truly understand what it means to be a part of the Concordia family,” says Eron Jacobson ’94, executive director for university advancement.
At Concordia, Adyson works with Rev. Quinton Anderson in abbeywest, the campus ministry. Avery works in the School of Business and Economics with Dean George Wright. Cash started his own deejay business at age 15 and now deejays numerous campus events, as well as major events in Lake Tahoe.
We love it when parents engage with the University and want to get connected,” Jaeger says. “I so admire the Casteels’ quiet and humble support of our mission. They believe in what we’re doing.
Recently, the triplets brought home six friends from CUI to celebrate their twenty-first birthday.
“Everyone who met these kids was amazed,” Claudia exclaims. “They kept saying, ‘What great kids!’ I attribute it to Concordia and the wonderful students they are turning out. It’s fantastic.”
“One person said, ‘It restores my faith in this generation,’” Gary says. “The quality of the professors at Concordia Irvine means a lot to us. In the business school, most of the professors have jobs in the real world.”
Tim Jaeger calls it a win-win when students and parents become part of the Concordia Irvine family.
“We love it when parents engage with the University and want to get connected,” Jaeger says. “I so admire the Casteels’ quiet and humble support of our mission. They believe in what we’re doing.”
The Casteels like knowing that their triplets are learning to “spread the word of the Lord and share their success as they grow — being good church folks, working in their community, doing a good job for whoever employs them,” says Gary.
“I feel like Concordia has taught them to go out into the world and be able to express their values about their God,” Claudia adds.