High school baton twirler turned skills into a career

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

Twirling a baton came naturally for Louise Crete LaCasse.

She was the drum majorette for the Forest Lake High School Marching Band for several years and following high school returned to teach others in high school the art of twirling.

Twirling a baton came so naturally that she transferred those skills into a career that lasted more than 60 years. LaCasse, the former owner of LaCasse Dance Studio, died on Sunday, Aug. 26 at a care facility in Woodbury. She was 89.

LaCasse grew up on a farm south of Lake Drive and east of I-35 in what was then Columbus Township. She was one of four siblings in the Theodore and Josephine Crete family.

She graduated Forest Lake High School in 1941 and continued to compete in twirling and taught baton twirling to high school students. Her teaching career had started at age 16, earning 10 cents a lesson in the early years. She never stopped teaching.

Her son, Lee LaCasse, said his mother liked the challenge and skills that went into being a superior baton twirler.

“It was flashy. It was athletic,” he said of twirling. “And you had to be good at it.”

By 1962 his mother had established her own twirling school that would eventually grow into six suburban communities. She was married to Richard LaCasse in 1951 and the couple settled on White Bear Lake as their home. In the early days she would teach during the evenings.

It was 1984 when she teamed with her son, Lee, to start LaCasse Dance Studio. The family had settled in White Bear Lake but Louise LaCasse had so many contacts in Forest Lake that it became a logical place to base a business.

The business quickly expanded. Over the next dozen years, new dance studios were opened in Cambridge, White Bear Lake and the Wisconsin communities of St. Croix Falls, Downing and New Richmond.

LaCasse Dance Studio operated in two sites here. Its first location was in the WestLine Center that was removed to make room for new development along Broadway, and a store front on N. Lake Street downtown.

It wasn’t just twirling that was offered.

In the early years, baton twirling made up the bulk of the instructional program, but as twirling diminished in popularity, the studio forcused more on dance instruction for girls and boys, offering tap, jazz and ballet.

The family-run business was sold in 1995. By 1998, the Forest Lake studio had closed, leaving Cambridge as the last of the studio sites still in operation, Lee LaCasse said. The Cambridge location closed in 2000.

Lee LaCasse said his mother’s love of twirling certainly helped inspire him and his brother, Peter, to take up baton twirling. Like their mother, they were both good at it.

Over a 10-year period, the LaCasse brothers won state twirling championships to add to the trophy case at LaCasse Dance Studio.

Funeral Details

A Mass of Christian Burial for Louise Mary (Crete) LaCasse will take place at 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 30 at St. Pius the X Catholic Church, 3878 Highland Ave., White Bear Lake, with visitation starting at 9 a.m.

Interment will be at Cavalry Cemetery, Forest Lake.

She is survived by her sons, Peter (Brenda) LaCasse and Lee LaCasse; grandson, Darren (Rebekah); many cousins, nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Theodore and Josephine Crete; husband of 60 years, Richard LaCasse in 2011; one brother, Leon Crete; and two sisters, Betty Lou and Joanne.

Memorials are preferred to the family and may be sent in care of Mattson Funeral Home, 343 North Shore Drive, Forest Lake, MN 55025.

  • http://www.capturedmemorieslv.com Reta Lee

    LOUISE LACASSE, whom I was privileged to call, “MOM,” was my dearest friend I and my mentor. I met my extended family in 1969. I was living in Hastings, Minnesota and before I knew it, I was teaching baton and dance. Like Mom, I had been a majorette in high school and college. Several little girls in Hastings wanted to take classes; I decided to teach in my back yard. Four little girls turned into eight and eight turned into sixteen. Within a few days I realized, although I was an advanced baton twirler and dancer, I needed help with breaking down twirls and dance steps to accommodate beginner and intermediate levels. I called Kraskin Baton Company in St. Paul and asked if they could recommend a teacher for me? Little did I know that teacher would also become my self-adopted Mom and dear friend, Louise LaCasse. Her sons, Lee and Peter, were known as my little brothers. God truly blessed me when He gave me my new family in Minnesota. I was from Texas, My Mother past away when I was sixteen and I had no family in the Upper Midwest with the exception of my husband and two little girls, Pam and Kimberly. Mom was my adviser in my studio. She was always there for my recitals. Although she didn’t do anything at the shows, just her presence would calm me and I knew it would always be okay, and it was. We attended workshops together in Italy, Spain, etc. Through Mom’s love and guidance I became a United States Twirling Association’s Judge. I taught for 35 years in the Upper Midwest, Texas and retired in Las Vegas. Mom visited me while I was in Vegas. I was very proud to introduce her to my students. My daughter, Pam Aubert, is a third generation baton and dance teacher. She has studios in Amery and Siren, Wisconsin. This year, she has opened her third studio in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. I. like Mom, was always there for her recitals. She would say, “Mom, just to see your face at my show, I know everything will be okay. I knew exactly how she felt. Her website: http://www.pamsdancecompany.com. Mom attended Pam’s show in Amery a few years ago and Pam introduced me, then I introduced Mom. Lots of tears and happiness. Pam has a little girl, Emma. (9 years old) She is in classes with her Mommy and we hope she continues our legacy. Pam will be at her show just like Mom and me. “WOW.” Mom would say, I just can’t believe what I started.” Just like me, Mom was so proud. She got to see little Emma perform, however, Mom’s time on earth didn’t allow her to see Emma teach. I always asked Mom to pray for me. I always believed she had a straight path to God and now, she is with Him. She was a fine Christian woman and will be greatly missed. Reta Lee