VANCOUVER — Longtime B.C. Lions equipment manager Ken (Kato) Kasuya is being remembered as a tireless worker and valued friend.
The CFL team released a statement on Wednesday saying it was “deeply saddened” to report that Kasuya had died. The cause of the 53-year-old’s death has not been disclosed.
Kasuya spent more than four decades with the Lions, starting out as a volunteer water boy in his teens.
He was hired as an assistant equipment manager in 1984 and moved up to the equipment manager role a decade later.
Lions president Rick LeLacheur says in a statement that the organization is “devastated” by the loss of a treasured family member.
“Tasked with the incredible responsibility to ensure the health of our players, (Kasuya) did so with passion, joy and tireless effort,” LeLacheur said. “He will forever be in the hearts of the legions of players and coaches who have passed through our locker room doors along with thousands in the football community across Canada.”
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said Kasuya’s personality and presence were important not only to the Lions but the entire league.
“He is one of those rare individuals who came to the CFL as a boy and dedicated his entire working life to our athletes and our game. In the process, Kasuya became as synonymous with the Lions as any star player or legendary coach,” Ambrosie said in a statement.
Mervyn Fernandez played for the Lions in the 1980s and 90s, and remembers Kasuya as simply “a fun guy.”
“Kato was my equipment guy the whole time there, him and Eddie (Georgica) and Bill (former trainer Bill Reichelt). They took care of us, anything we needed they got it for us. It’s sad to hear that he’s passed on,” the former wide receiver said in Toronto on Wednesday.
Several other current and former players took to social media to mourn Kasuya.
News of his passing was difficult to take, former Lions quarterback Travis Lulay said in a tweet.
“Kato was special funny, humble, caring. He was like a locker room counsellor — the couch in his office has heard every story of triumph and heartbreak. He was a cherished friend. We loved you, Kato. Rest In peace,” wrote Lulay, who retired in February after playing 10 seasons with the Lions.
Retired offensive lineman Andrew Jones played in B.C. twice and called Kasuya one of the best people he met during his time in the CFL.
“(I) always found an excuse to go hang out in his office and joke around with him when I was with the ↕BCLions. .RIPKato you will be missed,” Jones said in a tweet.
Edmonton Eskimos kicker Sean Whyte thanked Kasuya for “years of laughs.”
“I never considered you my equipment manager, I considered you a good friend. I’ll miss your one liners and pre game handshake/hug,” Whyte, who played for the Lions in 2009 and 2010, said in a tweet. “I’ll never forget you Kato.”